News  |  20.10.2023

The ATIBT Carbon & Biodiversity Commission publishes its 9th newsletter

The Carbon & Biodiversity Commission regularly reviews relevant news and information on carbon and biodiversity and prepares a summary. We share with you here the main points of the 9th watch. The newsletter is available on request for ATIBT members.

The ATIBT Carbon & Biodiversity Commission publishes its 9th newsletter

This 9th watch covers the following topics:

1. Six of the nine global limits have been crossed: threat to tropical forests 

The concept of planetary limits was introduced in 2009, limits within which humanity can safely evolve. Thirty or so researchers from ten different countries have confirmed, with measurements to back them up, that six of the nine planetary limits have been exceeded. The sixth limit recently crossed concerns freshwater. For the first time, researchers have been working on what they call "green water", which is the water available to plants. In addition to deforestation, a drop in humidity (due to global warming) now directly threatens entire regions of this precious green expanse.

2. Increase in deforestation of primary tropical forests in 2022 according to Global Forest Watch

According to the latest data from the University of Maryland published on WRI's Global Forest Watch platform, tropical regions will see a 10% increase in the loss of primary tropical forest in 2022 compared with 2021.

In 2022, primary tropical forests suffered a total loss of 4.1 million hectares, equivalent to the disappearance of 11 football pitches per minute. This deforestation resulted in the emission of 2.7 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide, equivalent to India's annual fossil fuel emissions.

3. Criticism of REDD+: new elements to fuel the debate

Following the pro- and anti-REDD+ debate at the beginning of the year, various organisations and experts continued their research in an attempt to demonstrate the real effectiveness of REDD projects, i.e. their ability to generate actual emissions reductions compared with the reference scenario, which should be as realistic as possible.

On the side of REDD+ advocates, an Everland study published in August 2023 analysed 53 REDD+ projects corresponding (according to Everland) to 83% of the area covered by VERRA-certified REDD+ projects and 71% of the REDD+ credits generated.

On the other side of the spectrum is a new study by West et al (the group of authors behind the first study, the results of which formed the basis of the Guardian article) published in August 2023 in the journal Science, a study by Calyx Global, and a study by the Berkeley Carbon Trading Project "Quality assessment of REDD+ carbon credit projects" by Haya et al.

As we know, well-conducted REDD+ projects generate positive benefits for biodiversity, forests and local populations. Denouncing them would therefore be counterproductive. As is regularly emphasised, these initiatives are constantly evolving and improving. On the other hand, these debates highlight the flaws in the current carbon credit model and force us to reflect on their future.

4. A new era for VERRA - Numerous methodological changes

Carbon certification standard Verra, the world's leading standards body for climate action and sustainable development, has recently made numerous announcements as part of its Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) programme. Indeed, while one of its recent publications is entitled "A New Era for Verra", in which the organisation aims to broaden its impact, engage more actively with its stakeholders and achieve operational excellence in order to effectively advance climate action and sustainable development, the main notable developments impacting project developers concern the many changes to the methodology, responding in part to the criticism that has surrounded it in recent months.

5. Methodology for certifying changes in forestry companies' energy supply practices

Most sawmills in Central Africa are currently powered by diesel generators. Because of the isolation of forest concessions and the lack of a market for sawmill by-products, almost all the by-products are burnt, generally representing 60-65% of the total volume entering the sawmill. This practice results in costly fuel consumption on the one hand, and a loss of income through the burning of sawmill by-products on the other. Installing cogeneration systems such as a steam boiler, pyrogasification or pyrolysis would reduce these costs by avoiding diesel consumption and generating carbon credits thanks to a change in practice that emits less CO2eq.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As the world's largest project-based regulatory mechanism, the CDM offers the public and private sectors in high-income countries the opportunity to purchase carbon credits from offset projects in low- and middle-income countries.

CDM projects generate emission credits called Certified Emission Reductions (CERs), which are then purchased and traded. Several compliance programmes and voluntary standards recognise and accept CERs. These include the European Emissions Trading Scheme and Verra's Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). The Gold Standard certifies projects that use CDM methodologies and comply with additional Gold Standard criteria. 

6. Voluntary carbon markets in 2023

For several years, nature-based climate solutions, including forest conservation and land management, have been in increasing demand on voluntary markets, crucial to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. By 2021, carbon credits from these projects accounted for more than 66% of the value of transactions on voluntary carbon markets, reaching nearly $2 billion, which is more than triple the amount from 2020 (Figure 6), demonstrating the potential for project developers.  However, following the various criticisms of the voluntary markets and the methodologies applied (article 3), there has been a slight slowdown in the number of Natural-Based Solutions (NBS) projects developed and therefore emissions reduced or sequestered/absorbed in 2022 and the first half of 2023. Furthermore, most of  the projects generated are avoidance projects (REDD+ in particular).

7. What is Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, and what are the stakes for the forestry sector?

As COP28 approaches, countries and negotiators will once again need to grapple with the complex issue of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, the implementation modalities of which remain uncertain. Article 6 is a key component of the Paris Agreement as it defines the mechanisms through which countries can cooperate (financially or otherwise) to achieve the goals of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). These contributions represent the ambitions that each country sets for itself regarding mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement outlines the modalities for exchanges between countries to finance and achieve their NDC objectives. To shed light on this complex topic, the NGO The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has produced a concise guide on the key aspects of Article 6, particularly as they relate to the forestry sector and REDD+. The watch dissects its sub-articles and analyzes the issues at stake for the forestry sector and for COP28.

8. Biodiversity Certificates News, Link to Climate Issues

 Following numerous summits and literature on the subject, it is clear that the emerging voluntary market for biodiversity credits/certificates offers significant potential to help bridge the global financial deficit for nature. It provides a market-based financing flow that can complement other market mechanisms (in addition to the ongoing critical role of development aid and philanthropic financing). However, how do we measure it? This is a question that the OBC's methodological consortium is currently grappling with. 

At all levels, the essential role of nature—and the populations on the front lines of protecting, sustainably managing, and restoring ecosystems—has never been more apparent and never needed more support.

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