(Updated with comments from Verra)
Carbon credit standard body Verra has launched a public consultation on its SD Vista Nature Framework as it looks to get set in the emerging biodiversity credit market.
Verra’s Nature Framework aims to scale investment in biodiversity outcomes through the generation of biodiversity credits, contributing to closing the finance targets set out under the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
“Feedback from key stakeholders will ensure the framework’s quality and success, and contribute to this nascent market. The Nature Credits generated by projects using the framework will allow interested buyers to positively contribute to biodiversity conservation,” said Sinclair Vincent, Verra’s director of sustainable development innovation, in a statement.
The Nature Framework outlines how projects can generate Nature Credits that will enable buyers’ voluntary contributions to a nature-positive future.
The Nature Framework proposes two credit types, the “Nature Credit” and the “Nature Stewardship Credit”.
Under the proposed approach, a nature credit considers three measurement dimensions; extent, condition, and significance. The proposed method aims to incorporate both restoration gains and avoided loss in a single accounting method with equal weighting, the standards body told Carbon Pulse.
Measuring the extent (area of ecosystem) and condition (quality of biodiversity) produces a weighted unit of habitat quality equivalent in hectares (Qha), while changes to this combined value determine the number of Nature Credits generated.
Significance is also allocated for nature credits by the standards body, to differentiate between the units associated with high-value habitat compared to a low-value habitat. This value is not factored into the calculation of the number of credits generated.
“For conservation to be effective, existing threats must be addressed before restoration and improvement can take place. Therefore, preventing future loss is often the highest priority,” Verra told Carbon Pulse.
The framework provides a brief overview of what’s proposed for so-called nature stewardship credits, which aims to increase the financial viability of areas that have been well managed, mostly by Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Verra proposed that this credit type should “reward successful, verified nature conservation and management outcomes based on stability and resilience of ecosystems without using counterfactuals”.
Nature stewardship credits would be issued on a per hectare basis upon verification of condition requirements (e.g., at least 90% of the ecosystem condition at the end of the previous five-year period), the consultation documents said.
“We are launching a parallel consultation focused on engaging with and learning from Indigenous Peoples and local communities to strengthen the Nature Framework,” said Vincent in a statement.
“It includes translation of all relevant materials and facilitating a process where these communities can provide valuable input to ensure the Nature Framework is an effective, impactful, and successful methodology,” she added.
Verra told Carbon Pulse that the parallel consultation will involve a series of webinars and potentially include in-person engagement with Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
As biodiversity credits are not to be used as offsets, potential buyers have been unclear on what kinds of corporate claims they would be able to make through purchasing biodiversity credits.
Verra carved out a section of the nature framework to propose clarity around what can and should be claimed by end users of their nature credits.
The standards organisation outlined that credit claims should not seek to offset impacts of damage done to nature, but alluded to nature credits being used to de-risk a company’s dependencies, focusing on the additionality that the financing can provide.
The organisation outlined an example of best practice whereby a company initially would look to reduce the drivers of biodiversity loss through its corporate commitments and within value chain actions, prior to purchasing nature credits.
Companies would be able to claim that purchasing a biodiversity credit to de-risk biodiversity loss within their value chain, as a beyond value chain investment, the methodology suggested.
Verra told Carbon Pulse that the proposed baseline will be calculated by both project and third-party-developed information, through an ecoregional approach.
Project proponents will measure the area’s extent, as well as select and define condition indicators to calculate the Qha, Verra said.
Third parties will be involved in determining the “ecoregional baseline” trends that are adjusted for ecosystem risk loss, similar to jurisdictional REDD+ baselines. Projects must then calculate their crediting baseline by forecasting the change in Qha, based on the third-party-produced ecoregional trend.
Verra recently removed the responsibility of developers to set REDD+ project baselines due to widespread over-crediting claims. The standards body issued contracts to remote sensing companies to strengthen their baseline monitoring approaches under the revised REDD+ methodology.
Similarly in biodiversity crediting, certifier Plan Vivo announced a partnership with tech firm Pivotal to support the data monitoring, reporting, and verification processes under its own PV-Nature standard.
The PV-Nature standard proposed accounting for biodiversity uplift differently to Verra’s proposed Nature Framework. PV-Nature identified four metrics in the calculation of its “multimetric” value for biodiversity: species richness, species diversity, taxonomic dissimilarity, and habitat connectivity. The not-for-profit would then issue a restoration certificate for each 1% increase in the multi-metric value within one hectare in one year.
The SD VISta Nature Framework will soon be piloted by 18 projects that were carefully selected from 179 applications. The first iteration of the Nature Framework is expected to be published in 2024.
By Tom Woolnough – firstname.lastname@example.org