Conservation charity Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and carbon standard Plan Vivo Foundation (PVF) have released a set of proposed high-integrity standards for the emerging voluntary biodiversity credit market to help guard against greenwashing and low-quality units.
Amid rapidly increasing interest from governments, corporations, and financials in the fledgling market, there is a growing sense of urgency among participants to shape the market in a manner that avoids the numerous risks associated with environmental credits.
“FFI and PVF recognise the high level and range of risks associated with the emerging market, not least the potential for greenwashing, lack of transparency, oversimplification of the complexities and value of nature, poorly defined pricing and inequitable benefit sharing,” the two groups said in a statement Wednesday.
“The organisations emphasise that, while building interest and support to deploy resources into biodiversity is critical, trading of credits must come with transparency and be managed carefully, taking learnings from the voluntary carbon market and utilising purpose built registries to manage who can buy, sell and trade credits, and to prevent double claiming.”
Their proposed guidelines follow similar principles previously released by the Biodiversity Consultancy and the World Economic Forum.
Fundamental to the two groups is avoiding that biodiversity credits get used as offsets, with corporations seeking to ‘make good’ for negative biodiversity impacts in one location by supporting a conservation project in another.
Instead, they said, biodiversity credits should be “positive incentives for landowners and communities to conserve and restore important habitats across the world, hence offering a strong potential pathway to Nature Positive – which aims to ensure species and ecosystems across the world are being restored and regenerated, rather than declining, by 2030”.
The proposed biodiversity market principles centre around three elements: nature, people, and climate.
On nature, the principles insisted credits in the market must represent real, robust, and verifiable biodiversity benefits that accelerate progress towards achieving jurisdictional and global goals for the recovery of nature.
They should also align with national and local frameworks, prevent biodiversity loss and displacement threats, and be based on ecologically relevant monitoring, they added.
The two groups said native species and ecosystems should be prioritised.
On people, the principles emphasised the importance of respecting and protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) and that projects should be participatory and inclusive, with free prior, informed consent given by those involved.
Revenue from biodiversity credits sales must involve equitable benefit-sharing for IPLCs and bring resilience to communities through enhanced livelihoods.
Also, the principles said credited projects must be in line with international agreements and national policies on carbon pools, bring climate change resilience, recognise carbon sinks and stores, and help unlock synergies between carbon and biodiversity markets.
“We are looking to collaborate further with other responsible actors in this space – including the World Economic Forum, the Biodiversity Credit Alliance and the United Nations Development Programme – to help shape a future biodiversity credits market that meets the outlined broad high-integrity principles,” said Keith Bohannon of Plan Vivo.
“It is going to be a long road to navigate, but only by working together and taking a unified approach can we ensure real impact for nature, people and climate, underpinned by transparency and strong governance.”
Plan Vivo has been developing a biodiversity standard, PV Nature, with help from FFI and others, and plans to release a draft version of that standard next week, ahead of a full launch later this year.
By Stian Reklev – firstname.lastname@example.org
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