Biodiversity Credit Alliance could serve as nature’s ICVCM on governance, experts say

Published 18:37 on March 16, 2023  /  Last updated at 00:43 on March 17, 2023  / Katherine Monahan /  Biodiversity

There is considerable potential for the Biodiversity Credit Alliance (BCA) to serve a similar function to the cross-stakeholder Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM), though a key difference will be that this initiative is not two decades overdue, a panel heard Thursday.

There is considerable potential for the Biodiversity Credit Alliance (BCA) to serve a similar function to the cross-stakeholder Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM), though a key difference will be that this initiative is not two decades overdue, a panel heard Thursday.

The UN-backed BCA could provide clarity and integrity guidance to the budding biodiversity credit market in the same way that the ICVCM aims to outline core principles and establish thresholds for quality carbon credits, according to speakers at the Corporate Investments into Forestry and Biodiversity Summit taking place in New York on Thursday.

“I think [the BCA] is going to be hugely valuable to bring everyone together and be able to have these dialogues going on about the different pieces, bringing some of that early trust to the market, even while we’re very much in the development phase,” said Sinclair Vincent, who is heading up standard body Verra’s forthcoming nature credit protocol.

“I’m sure we all wish that the ICVCM started two decades ago,” she added, reflecting on the development of the VCM that has since its foundation been largely fragmented and ungoverned.

The BCA was launched at the UN’s COP15 biodiversity negotiations in Montreal last December, and is supported by the UN’s development and environment programmes (UNDP, UNEP) as well as the Swedish International Development Agency.

The alliance includes conservation practitioners, academics, and other experts, and touts a strong taskforce of biodiversity credit project developers and standard setters such as Plan Vivo, Terrasos, and rePlanet. Verra itself is currently absent from the website outlining BCA partners, but told Carbon Pulse that they are hoping to work together with the initiative soon.

“I think from a potential [credit] buyers’ perspective, there’s a lot of questions,” said Simon Morgan, co-founder of biodiversity credit developer ValueNature and member of BCA’s taskforce.

“And if we are all working in different silos, it’s going to be very difficult for them to gather information or really understand what’s going on.”

“And so, we’re trying to provide those guardrails and global principles as early on as possible,” he added.

Members of the BCA are actively participating in working groups under the standard-setters’ protocol development, and the initiative aims to connect biodiversity opportunities with communities while ensuring robust underlying science.

“One of the other really key pieces is this Indigenous peoples and local community element,” said Vincent.

“I think it’s very hard for any individual or organisation that fits into those groups to want to sign on, or participate in the development process of any single methodology.”

“But by having a group like the BCA, I think that gives them an opportunity to actually engage in a smart way that could inform the entire market rather than one methodology,” she added.

DIFFERENCES

While speakers agreed that supporting a cross-sector governance structure is a key lesson learned from the carbon space, they went on to note several important differences between the carbon and biodiversity markets.

“Carbon is fine and is big, and has a really important connection to climate change, but biodiversity is like the soccer of the offset space,” said Timothy Male, executive director of the US-based Environmental Policy Innovation Center.

“What we’re adding is something that really connects to people, and then at the end of the day, as biodiversity gets rarer and rarer … people are going to value it more and more, and it’s going to have more and more business value,” he added.

Speakers also noted that relying on nature-based solutions from the carbon market to capture biodiversity co-benefits is problematic when projects have limited CO2 benefits but ample ecosystem benefits, or when a project is inhibitively expensive from a carbon sequestration perspective.

“Our opportunity here is to reframe how we think about carbon, how we think about any of these ecological gains that come from these projects on the ground,” said Morgan.

“And with biodiversity often more tangible, communities and custodians understand biodiversity better than they might be able to understand carbon.”

“I think the opportunity here is community-driven projects,” he added.

By Katherine Monahan – katherine@carbon-pulse.com

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