Washington, DC, — Verra has announced the strengthening of its flagship forest preservation and restoration standard, the world’s largest, which measures greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions and removals and issues carbon offset credits for use in global voluntary and compliance markets. These updates will strengthen the ability of forest conservation and restoration efforts to contribute to global climate goals.
Verra is a non-profit organization that sets environmental and social standards, including for climate change mitigation and sustainable development impacts. To date, Verra has registered 1,687 projects under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) that have reduced 582 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.
A key update: the closer integration of project activities with jurisdictional (i.e., government-led) efforts in a way that is designed to build on the strengths of each:
- Projects are effective at delivering services to local communities and addressing local drivers of deforestation, and are more likely to appeal to the private sector;
- Governments can provide a supportive environment, including incentives, for forest protection and restoration, and can draw upon capital from buyer/donor countries.
Verra is also making several other changes, including:
- Providing new tools to establish project baselines based on jurisdictional data — ensuring alignment with national accounting.
- Incorporating new research on “leakage” (i.e., the possibility that decreasing deforestation in forest A may result in shifting deforestation to forest B).
- Clarifying definitions of rights to emission reductions, which is particularly relevant to indigenous and rural forest communities.
- Strengthening project carbon “buffers”, which act as an insurance policy. Each project must contribute a percentage of its carbon offset credits to a buffer. In case of a fire or other event that releases stored carbon into the atmosphere, a corresponding number of buffer credits are canceled. Updates will ensure future climate impacts are better reflected in withholding.
The product of two years of work by experts around the globe, the updates to the VCS Program and its Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ Framework (JNR) will ensure their requirements follow the latest scientific findings, best practices, and technology innovations. The updates will be released later this month and over the course of the next year.
Verra CEO David Antonioli said: “As the organization that is responsible for the world’s most widely used carbon crediting standard for preserving and restoring forests, we are committed to making sure that our requirements follow best practices and new scientific findings. Carbon markets are well-positioned to be an important solution to climate change, and our role as a standard-setter means we need to ensure that the available carbon finance is channeled to activities on the ground that demonstrably reduce deforestation and strengthen forest restoration activities. The protection and restoration of the world’s forests are critical in the fight against climate change, and we are very proud to be setting out our vision for how carbon finance can do its part.”
Verra chief program officer Naomi Swickard said: “Saving the world’s forests is critically important, not only in the fight against climate change but also because of the communities and biodiversity they sustain. To make this possible, more finance will need to go to preserving them, and the updates to both the VCS Program and our JNR Framework, which include the integration of jurisdictional and project-based REDD+, will facilitate this.”
The newly announced changes affect REDD+ activities (reducing emissions from avoided deforestation and forest degradation, sustainable management of forests and forest enhancements) such as efforts that protect forests directly (e.g., building fire lines to protect against wildfires, patrolling the forest to stop illegal timber harvesting) and efforts that enhance food security and transform the local economy (e.g., supporting farmers to adopt more effective land management practices that reduce pressure on forests, providing important community benefits such as education and health care).