Carbon developer sets sights on biodiversity market with new global venture

Published 14:23 on September 18, 2023  /  Last updated at 14:23 on September 18, 2023  / Tom Woolnough /  Africa, Bavardage, Biodiversity, EMEA, International, US  /  Comments Off on Carbon developer sets sights on biodiversity market with new global venture

A carbon project developer launched a global business Monday at New York Climate Week to define social value metrics for nature that aims to be a frontrunner in the biodiversity credit market.

An established carbon project developer launched a global business Monday at New York Climate Week to define social value metrics for nature that aims to be a frontrunner in the biodiversity credit market.

UK-based Level aims to build on the community conservation approach of Carbon Tanzania and target emerging biodiversity credit markets globally, as well as bring a stronger focus on social value to the voluntary carbon market as a means of demonstrating impact.

“We’ve taken the global elements of what we do, generating value for local communities, and linking that to well-measured and well-evidenced nature conservation. We want people to wake up in these communities and see that the reason the children are able to attend school is because the forest pays an income, not because an NGO showed up and paid them to attend,” Jo Anderson, co-founder of Level and Carbon Tanzania, told Carbon Pulse.

The startup will position itself as a global commercial entity that still operates within the voluntary carbon market, but shapes the understanding of social value across nature-based markets. Level will also target biodiversity credit markets to direct finance to Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.


Level’s co-founders contend that due to their community/conservation approach developed through their experience with Carbon Tanzania, they are well placed to provide a process to capture and monitor aspects of social value that other market actors could adopt.

“Tools for understanding and evidencing social value in nature-based solutions are needed, whether they are imposed by standards or encouraged by buyers is unknown, but they are needed and we will be developing those,” Anderson said.

“We all know there is increasing demand for more transparency on the effects of finance on local communities. It needs to go beyond measuring how many children went to school or how many cows got vaccinated. Building the school is a metric, not an impact.”

The specific metrics on social value are yet to be defined by the company, which is working with a scientific advisory company and social scientists to do so. Anderson told Carbon Pulse that the metrics may vary by site or location.

“If you’re in a setting with two very different ethnic groups or lifestyle needs, one of your metrics might be cohesion or lack of conflict. We want to make sure that by putting money in we don’t just create greater conflict between two competing land use types or ethnicities or cultures, but in another setting, it might be more mono-cultural.”

Anderson said this has the potential to be tech-enabled, much like monitoring, verification, and reporting of environmental impact has embraced artificial intelligence and a range of technological innovations.

“The reality is [buyers] are asking for information beyond CCB (the climate, community, and biodiversity standards). These companies need this extra granular information. It’s about risk mitigation so buyers can protect themselves from the risk of people saying the money didn’t benefit that community, or they were displaced.”

The company aims to release an offering that could enable the standards, corporate buyers, or investors to measure and report on social value.

These aspects of social value also cross over into the emerging biodiversity credit market, according to co-founder Anderson.

Recently, REDD+ project developers sought to push their projects’ social impact as a reason to keep buying credits, amid a market downturn in the wake of integrity scandals on carbon accounting.


Anderson told Carbon Pulse that potential buyers in the biodiversity market want safeguarding measures in place, and a clear understanding of social value that is built in at the early stage of the market.

“The development of the assets on which carbon credits are based are very similar to what’s needed for mature biodiversity markets. It goes beyond making a grant for a few years, it is going to demand more standardisation and unitisation through metric-based biodiversity measurements.”

The company is already running a pilot in Tanzania under the Plan Vivo Nature Standard, one of the emerging standards for biodiversity credits.

Plan Vivo recently closed a second consultation on its approach for biodiversity credits under its PV-Nature standard. The non-profit has now partnered with data company Pivotal, and veered away from a broad “basket of metrics” approach to zero in on four key pillars: species richness, species diversity, taxonomic dissimilarity, and habitat connectivity. Data collected under these four pillars then feed into a calculation of a single metric representing the percentage uplift in a project.

“When you look at the biodiversity space there is huge amounts of attention on how we measure things, how accurate the satellite is etc … It’s important, but the understanding of social value within nature-based investments doesn’t seem to have real scrutiny and discussion about what that could look like,” said Anderson.

“If you can show buyers that social impact is already built into the market, you might see stimulated market demand earlier, rather than the wait and see, like in carbon markets.”

He added that biodiversity credits do provide an opportunity to build projects where carbon values are not sufficient to access the carbon markets.

However, for communities, the different markets do not have material differences between them, but they represent income that is “long-term, recurrent and reliable” for conducting certain activities that can be transformative, Anderson said.

While focusing on the voluntary biodiversity credit market, Level has regulatory standards in Europe sighted as a potential opportunity, particularly those included in the UK Environment Act and the EU’s Nature Restoration Law.

“Our commitment is to choose these opportunities based on principles of being conservation-first, but we’re not afraid of working with communities. It means our approach could be as relevant to Scotland as it is to Peru or Tanzania.”

The company released a whitepaper at its launch event during New York Climate Week on Monday, outlining a high-level approach to its work.

By Tom Woolnough –

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