The first biodiversity credits issued by a major standard are rapidly approaching market readiness, as Plan Vivo Foundation looks set to publish its draft biodiversity protocol on Tuesday.
Plan Vivo analysts outlined their draft methodology to credit biodiversity improvements during a webinar session held Monday, confirming that their approach will mimic the “basket of metrics” method first developed by science-based research group Wallacea Trust.
The methodology states that proponents must choose at least five metrics that are relevant to biodiversity within a project area, and credits are then issued as equivalent to a 1% increase, or avoided loss, in the median value of the basket of metrics, per hectare.
Plan Vivo has been working on this development of the “PV Nature” biodiversity standard for the past 12 months – with the draft release on Tuesday marking the beginning of its consultation process that will inform the final protocol, due later this year.
“The growth of nature markets offers real potential to channel ethical investment to Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities and incentivise the conservation of biodiversity,” Plan Vivo wrote in its invitation to the virtual event.
“After 25 years in the voluntary carbon market, we believe we are well positioned to play a key role in this,” it added.
The release follows Plan Vivo’s publication last week – along with conservation charity Fauna & Flora International and project developer Carbon Tanzania – of high-level integrity principles to inform a biodiversity market, which are centred around ensuring positive impacts on nature, people, and climate.
Plan Vivo has been clear that it plans to build on its lessons learned from the voluntary carbon market, and will not offer the credits for offsetting purposes from the outset.
Instead, the standard is targeting companies and impact investors that are looking to have a positive impact on nature, noting that it has been in talks with a range of stakeholders who have expressed considerable interest in this type of use.
“Once we have something out there, then the proof will be in the pudding, to see if there really is demand for this,” said Keith Bohannon, CEO at Plan Vivo.
“We have to make sure that we’re generating high integrity credits – that’s what people are telling us they want,” he added.
There is no one single metric to measure biodiversity improvements in the same way that a tonne of CO2e avoided or removed can be used in the carbon market.
“We came to the realisation fairly early on that there is no biodiversity equivalent of a carbon dioxide molecule that can be used in the biodiversity markets, specifically, in the way that a carbon dioxide molecule can be seen as equal across all projects,” said Luke Howard, technical coordinator at Plan Vivo.
“We cannot find that metric in the biodiversity world,” he added, noting that was the reason why an alternative approach was needed, and that a simple land-size approach would fail to capture the level of biodiversity within the region.
Scientists and other experts convened under the Wallacea Trust, have explored the topic of biodiversity “quality” or “improvements in quality” for many years.
Eventually the “basket of metrics” methodology emerged from the group, and is currently being piloted by project developer rePlanet.
The methodology is modelled off the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in economics, which measures changes in average prices used to maintain a constant standard of living – where the “goods” within this basket differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
In the case of a “biodiversity basket”, at least five metrics are chosen relevant to the project area, and then weighed by importance, based on metrics such as domestic or international endangerment rankings.
While each proponent will choose, and defend, the five metrics based on what makes the most sense for their project area, an example was provided during the webinar. This example was to couple improvement of overall forest cover using satellite imagery, with the measurement of total species richness and abundance for fish, terrestrial invertebrates, amphibians, and reptiles.
“I think it’s quite useful to emphasise that this was primarily developed by ecologists… takes learning from the voluntary carbon markets… and is undergoing a peer review process by a research team at the University of Nottingham,” said Howard.
Howard noted that metrics can be chosen as bundles of species such as breeding birds or amphibians within the area, while metrics can also represent ecosystem services such as those related to improved air quality.
He also noted that, given the complexity of the methodology, project review and verification will require a much higher level of expertise than often found present in the carbon market.
Plan Vivo speakers also noted that proponents will be allowed to stack biodiversity credits with carbon credits, but this would apply only to newly authorised projects.
Though Plan Vivo will be the first major registry to release a draft biodiversity standard, other crediting programmes such as Verra are actively developing their approach, while several smaller schemes are already in place.
By Katherine Monahan – email@example.com
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