Carbon Direct, a carbon management solutions provider, has recently released a buyer’s guide for sustainable biomass sourcing. The guide aims to help mitigate the risks associated with biomass-based carbon dioxide removal (CDR) contracting. It is the result of collaboration between buyers and Carbon Direct’s expert advisory group, with large corporations such as Microsoft, Shopify, and Stripe as signatories.
The guide offers practical insights for CDR agreements, while emphasizing the importance of stringent standards and oversight for sustainable biomass sourcing. It also highlights the potential of biomass-based CDR in combating global warming and achieving ambitious climate targets. The report establishes four sourcing principles, each with its own set of criteria, as an initial step towards establishing effective safeguards. It should be noted that the guide is not a standard or certification, but rather considers multiple implementation pathways to minimize risk and facilitate industry expansion.
The biomass-based CDR industry is experiencing rapid growth in the voluntary carbon markets. As the demand for durable carbon removals increases, biomass-based solutions are at the forefront. The available supply of highly-durable CDR to date includes bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), biochar, and other biomass carbon removal and storage (BiCRS) technologies. These projects have the potential to scale rapidly in the next decade, with millions of tonnes of announced offtake agreements already in place.
Given that the largest biomass-based CDR projects will begin storing carbon as early as 2026, the report focuses on tools and frameworks that will be implemented in the coming years. This near-term approach is crucial in providing recommendations for seamless integration into contracts involving different biomass-based CDR applications. Global projections indicate that the demand for biomass in ambitious decarbonization scenarios could exceed conservative estimates of sustainable, low-lifecycle-emissions supply by a significant margin, ranging from 11 to 16 times by 2050.
The biggest potential source of new demand for biomass is energy conversion. Some estimates suggest that biomass demand from biopower alone could consume all available supply by 2050. These projections emphasize the need to establish sound guardrails on biomass use before these industries scale up. This is where the buyer’s guide comes in, providing the necessary guidelines to mitigate the risks associated with biomass-based CDR contracting. The guide is guided by four core sourcing principles outlined in the document.
The first principle requires sourcing from certified forests or areas of low risk, with robust forest governance or strong oversight of forest certification standards. The biomass must be traceable across the entire supply chain, ensuring transparency and accountability. The second principle focuses on sourcing from wood processing operations that have a low risk of community health impact, respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and protect the well-being of workers. The third principle highlights the importance of forest protection and preservation, sourcing biomass from areas that are not considered primary or old-growth forests and ensuring that forest management initiatives do not threaten protected areas or High Conservation Value forests. The fourth principle emphasizes biomass sourcing that does not compete with existing agricultural or forestry products.
Each principle is accompanied by a comprehensive explanation in the guide, providing specific and measurable outcomes. The guide offers multiple implementation options for flexibility, with the most conservative option considered as the preferred choice. However, it also recognizes the potential for customized oversight in specific cases, depending on the factors at play in a particular area. Buyers should consider any trade-offs between practical and conservative approaches when adopting the recommended options into their biomass-based CDR offtake agreements.
The guide also includes a list of prominent voluntary and regulatory certification schemes that certify forest biomass. As the biomass-based CDR industry continues to expand, establishing effective safeguards and standards for sustainable biomass sourcing is crucial. Carbon Direct’s buyer’s guide provides comprehensive insights and principles for mitigating risks and ensuring responsible sourcing practices. By emphasizing the necessity of stringent oversight and sustainable biomass sourcing, the guide paves the way for the industry’s sustainable growth and underscores its significant role in global climate action.