Verra, a nonprofit organization focused on climate action and carbon credit verification, has introduced a new methodology to protect forests. This approach, operating under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) program, represents a significant shift in how the impact of activities that safeguard forests and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is measured. It aligns with the goals set by countries under the Paris Agreement and opens doors for increased global investment in nature conservation.
The new REDD methodology introduced by Verra incorporates two important elements. Firstly, it implements a new approach to the baseline-setting process that reduces the potential for conflicts of interest and ensures greater quality control. Secondly, it aligns key features of forest projects with global and government actions, marking the first time such alignment has been achieved. Toby Janson-Smith, Verra’s Chief Program Development and Innovation Officer, emphasized the crucial role of forests in achieving global climate goals. He highlighted that deforestation is responsible for approximately one-fifth of the world’s GHG emissions and stated that carbon markets are the most effective tool available for forest protection. This new methodology represents a significant step forward in ensuring the integrity of REDD and supporting the scale-up of these critical activities.
This new approach has been in development since 2020 and focuses specifically on REDD, which stands for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.” The REDD system encompasses various activities, ranging from combating illegal logging to assisting forest communities in finding alternative livelihoods. It has successfully protected vast areas of forests worldwide and directed millions of dollars to developing countries that take care of these forests.
Under the new methodology, Verra will be responsible for establishing the baselines for measuring the impact of REDD activities. This will involve utilizing specific data and a robust process to estimate expected deforestation rates in a given area. Advanced remote-sensing technologies and thorough risk assessments will be employed to ensure accurate calculations. This approach will enable the verification of reduced emissions from all projects in an area, aligning with the overall measurement for that region. By introducing consistency, minimizing conflicts of interest, improving quality control, and supporting government actions, this methodology enhances the effectiveness of carbon markets and strengthens high-integrity forest projects.
Naomi Swickard, a senior director for Verra’s REDD+ program, emphasized the role of carbon markets in ensuring that forest projects deliver nationally aligned, high-integrity credits. She highlighted that this methodology provides confidence to buyers that their contributions genuinely contribute to climate action while benefiting biodiversity and local communities. Overall, it will increase the value of REDD+ projects in carbon credit markets. In 2022, more than 400 million REDD+ credits were issued on the VCM, accounting for a quarter of the total credits issued in the market.
Earlier this year, Verra’s REDD+ projects faced scrutiny from a team of investigative journalists who claimed that the carbon credits from those projects likely did not represent real emission reductions. Verra responded by stating that the findings were incorrect and that the impact of the organization’s forest projects had been miscalculated. The newly released REDD+ methodology is the result of collaboration and agreement among experts and stakeholders in the carbon market. Co-authors of the methodology include Tim Pearson of GreenCollar, Kevin Brown and Sarah Walker of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Till Neeff, Simon Koenig of Climate Focus, and Manuel Estrada.
Verra is also preparing to launch an allocation tool that will complement the new methodology. The organization has outlined a clear plan for how current Avoided Unplanned Deforestation (AUD) projects will transition to this new methodology, including details of the transition process. Additionally, Verra will provide a pathway to Core Carbon Principles (CCP) labeling under the Integrity Council for Voluntary Carbon Markets (ICVCM) for previously verified emission reductions and issued VCS carbon credits. This will occur once the VCS program is evaluated by ICVCM as CCP-Eligible and recognized in a CCP-Approved category. This pathway will enable project initiators to voluntarily switch their projects to the new methodology and adjust previous project calculations accordingly. Detailed information regarding the transition process for various methodologies will be made available in the coming months.
Verra’s new REDD+ methodology represents a significant milestone in forest conservation and the reduction of global GHG emissions. This groundbreaking approach not only enhances quality control but also instills greater confidence in carbon markets, attracting investments towards nature preservation and supporting climate action.