Standards & Verification
LAST UPDATED on February 14, 2013
11 Feb 2013: The CDM Executive Board has launched five calls for experts to act as members of its panels, working groups and teams including CDM Afforestation and Reforestation Working Group. Read more
07 Feb 2013: Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) announces deadlines for project validation and registration including AFOLU projects. Read more
18 Dec 2012: VCS and CCBA hosted a webinar on 11 December to discuss a new streamlined process for developing and registering projects that are seeking certification under both standards. Read more
Methods and Standards Updates (February to April 2012) Download PDF
Comparison Tables for Project Standards (Updated and consolidated to date)
Previously we focused on project-level standards relevant for Asia, both forest carbon standards and complementary socio-environmental standards. In response to the upcoming international REDD+ mechanism that calls for national level forest carbon accounting and implementation of numerous safeguards; programmatic, jurisdictional and nested standards and approaches are being developed. This update provides a summary of these evolving programmatic and jurisdictional standards; as well as a continued update on developments under project-level standards over the last two months. Please see FCA Briefs No. 3 and No. 5 for earlier standards reviews up to January 2012. Note: We only focus on standards that are applicable for forest carbon/REDD+ activities in Asia.
Please see Tables 1 and 2 for an updated consolidated comparison of key features of different project-level standards.
National-level reporting on greenhouse gas emissions from specific land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities was required under the Kyoto Protocol for all Annex 1 countries. Under Article 3.3 of the Kyoto Protocol, reporting is required on deforestation, afforestation and reforestation since 1990. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Good Practice Guidance for LULUCF activities provides methods and guidance for estimating, monitoring and reporting on carbon stock changes and greenhouse gas emissions from LULUCF activities to ensure high quality standards, comparability and consistency over time.
The evolving REDD+ mechanism under the UNFCCC also requires national level accounting and accountability for forest-based emissions reductions to avoid displacement of emissions into non-project areas. Further, there is increasing interest from governments of various countries to source REDD+ credits in large volumes from larger jurisdictional programs to meet their anticipated national emission reduction obligations. Voluntary market standards have begun to look at scaling up from project-level standards to jurisdictional-level initiatives (state, national) and including project-level activities as nested components of the jurisdictional-level accounting to meet the emerging requirements.
In February 2012, VCS released updated technical recommendations for integrated project and jurisdiction-wide accounting and crediting of REDD+ activities. The recommendations provide three options for jurisdictions to develop REDD+ programs that may recognize and integrate project activities into jurisdiction-level accounting frameworks.
Scenario 1: Jurisdictional baseline with standalone project crediting
Scenario 2: Jurisdictional crediting scheme with direct crediting to nested activities
Scenario 3: Jurisdictional crediting scheme with internal allocation program
Draft VCS requirements will be made open to public comment and final requirements are to be released in mid-2012. VCS has presented the concept and methods to REDD+ stakeholders at workshops around Asia and elsewhere this year.
Winrock International’s American Carbon Registry (ACR) is developing technical guidance for REDD+ projects nested within a jurisdictional accounting framework. As of January 2012, the ACR Nested REDD+ Requirements were under review by the technical team. Following revisions and a public consultation and peer review process, the Requirements are to be published around mid-2012. Project-level REDD+ activities can then register using the baseline, monitoring and other requirements developed at the jurisdictional level rather than having to develop these at the project level. To ensure that nested REDD+ projects meet the same quality standards as non-nested projects, ACR will establish minimum criteria that jurisdictional baselines, leakage assessments, monitoring, and reversal risk mitigation have to fulfill for projects to be nested within that framework. The Requirements will further specify how to reconcile differences between project-level and jurisdictional-level performance.
How do these measures fit into the evolving international and national REDD+ and other forest carbon initiatives?
The VCS JNRI is suggested as a way to bridge the time till any UNFCCC REDD+ mechanism is agreed on and begins implementation around year 2020. Under JNRI, REDD+ programs and activities can produce credits for sale in the voluntary carbon markets and pre-compliance markets and perhaps also to bilateral and multilateral donor agencies and funds. ACR’s nested approach looks to link ACR project-level activities into evolving jurisdictional-level accounting and the nested projects would produce credits for sale in voluntary and pre-compliance carbon markets.
At the UN Climate Change talks in Cancun in December 2010, parties agreed to promote and support certain REDD+ safeguards listed in CP 16/Annex 1 and provide information on how the safeguards were being addressed and respected throughout the implementation of the REDD+ activities. The safeguards to be promoted and supported are as follows:
- That actions complement or are consistent with the objectives of national forest programmes and relevant international conventions and agreements;
- Transparent and effective national forest governance structures, taking into account national legislation and sovereignty;
- Respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and members of local communities, by taking into account relevant international obligations, national circumstances and laws, and noting that the United Nations General Assembly has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
- The full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, in particular indigenous peoples and local communities, in the actions referred to in…..;
- That actions are consistent with the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity, ensuring that the actions referred to in … are not used for the conversion of natural forests, but are instead used to incentivize the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services, and to enhance other social and environmental benefits;
- Actions to address the risks of reversals;
- Actions to reduce displacement of emissions.
REDD readiness support programs and processes are seeking to develop and integrate the required safeguards into national REDD+ preparation and implementation activities. Three major initiatives to build standards for national REDD+ policies and programs are outlined below.
The multilateral UN-REDD Programme developed Social and Environmental Principles and Criteria to take into account the REDD+ safeguards agreed to by countries at Cancun and to ensure that its REDD Readiness Programme activities promoted social and environmental benefits and reduced risks. The P&C is also to help countries operationalise the safeguards agreed upon and to help reviewers assess the potential impacts of the national programmes.
A first version of the P& C was released at the UN-REDD Programme’s 6th Policy Board Meeting in March 2011. Following extensive consultation and revision, a fourth version was released at the 8th Policy Board Meeting in March 2012. The P&C as it stands now consists of seven principles and 24 criteria as follows:
- Principle 1. Apply norms of democratic governance, as reflected in national commitments and Multilateral Agreements – Criteria related to ensuring transparency and accessibility of financial management and information, participation of relevant stakeholders, coordination, the rule of law
- Principle 2. Respect and protect stakeholder rights in accordance with international obligations – criteria relate to ensuring the rights of IPs, local communities, women and other vulnerable groups; and seeking Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
- Principle 3. Promote sustainable livelihoods and poverty reduction – criteria includes equitable benefit-sharing
- Principle 4. Contribute to low-carbon, climate-resilient sustainable development policy, consistent with national development strategies, national forest programmes, and commitments under international conventions and agreements
- Principle 5. Protect natural forest from degradation and/or conversion
- Principle 6. Maintain and enhance multiple functions of forest including conservation of biodiversity conservation and provision of ecosystem services – criteria related to land use planning and management of natural and planted forests
- Principle 7. Avoid or minimise adverse impacts on non-forest ecosystem services and biodiversity
The draft defines the various terms used, and outlines the relationship of each principle to Cancun safeguards and how the UN-REDD Programme’s operational guidance supports the P&C.
Besides the P&C, a Benefits and Risks Tool (BeRT) has been developed to guide the countries in the preparation of their UN-REDD-supported National Programmes. This tool is to be tested in UN-REDD partner countries over 2012.
The World Bank has a set of safeguard policies to be used in the planning and implementation of all projects it supports to ensure no adverse impacts on the local people and the environment. The safeguard policies relate to environmental assessment, natural habitats, pest management, physical cultural resources, involuntary resettlement, indigenous peoples, forestry, safety of dams, projects on international waterways and projects in disputed areas. Action is be taken to mitigate negative impacts and people can submit grievances for redressal.
To link National REDD Readiness preparation programs supported by the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) to the Bank’s safeguard policies, countries are required to submit a plan to carry out a Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA) and develop an Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF). The SESA and ESMF are to help identify and include environmental and social concerns and safeguards in their national REDD+ Programs. The SESA and ESMF are to be compliant with the World Bank’s safeguard policies and procedures. Civil society has expressed concerns over the strength and application of World Bank safeguards and SESA in REDD Readiness programs.
Following through on international and national demands, CCBA and CARE are facilitating the REDD+ Social & Environmental Standards initiative that seeks to develop strong and effective social and environmental safeguards for government-led REDD+ programs. Ecuador, Brazil (State of Acre), Nepal, Tanzania and Indonesia (Central Kalimantan) are currently participating in the SES initiative.
Public comments were invited for REDD+ SES Standards Version 2 from 9th February to 9th April 2012. The new SES version aims to streamline the principles, criteria and indicators; address gaps, simplify the indicators, and maintain the quality and comprehensiveness of the overall framework.
Comments are now also invited on draft Guidelines for the use of REDD+SES at country level Version 2 from 5th April until 4th June 2012. The REDD+ SES content and process provide a ‘standards system’ which is a mechanism that can be used to show whether and how safeguards are being respected, including how multiple benefits are being delivered.
For a good introduction to REDD+ SES, view the REDD+ SES presentation from the National inception workshop on REDD+: Building capacity for decision makers and the way forward, 13-14 February 2012, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The 35th meeting of the CDM Afforestation Reforestation working group (Bonn, March 21-23, 2012) decided to allow small-scale A/R CDM projects to also account for all five carbon pools. Small-scale projects can now use tools to estimate carbon in dead wood and litter and organic carbon in soils. The A/R working group revised/amended the following two tools to be used in CDM A/R projects.
- Estimation of carbon stocks and change in carbon stocks in dead wood and litter
- Demonstrating appropriateness of volume equations for estimation of aboveground tree biomass
The group also agreed to revise/ amend the following methods and tools at the next meeting of the AR working group in Bonn on 20-22 June 2012.
- AR-AM0005 “Afforestation and reforestation project activities implemented for industrial and/or commercial uses”
- The tool “Estimation of carbon stocks and change in carbon stocks of trees and shrubs”
- The tool “Tool for testing significance of GHG emissions”
Further, the A/R working group agreed to recommend to the CDM Executive Board to withdraw the “Guidelines on conservative choice and application of default data in estimation of the net anthropogenic GHG removals by sinks”. The guidelines are no longer required in view of recent improvements in A/R methodologies and tools.
Another significant development under A/R CDM involves the issue of 4 million temporary Certified Emission Reductions (tCERs) on April 13, 2012 to a reforestation project in Minas Gerais, Brazil. This is the world’s first issuance of compliance market credits under A/R CDM. The project is supported by the World Bank’s Prototype Carbon Fund and the BioCarbon Fund.
The Verified Carbon Standard had a stream of updates over the last two months. On January 31, 2012, VCS approved the first soil carbon offset program, a World Bank-designed program to cut farming emissions in Africa. Those projects can now start issuing carbon credits.
On February 1, 2012, VCS released updates to several Version 3 Program Documents related to developing standardized methods, AFOLU Carbon Pools, Methodology Grace Periods, double counting rules and regulatory surplus rules.
On February 16, 2012, VCS issued the world’s first bamboo carbon offset credits for the voluntary carbon market to the Food & Trees for Africa’s (FTFA) Bamboo for Africa programme.
On March 7, 2012, VCS opened certain methodological items for a 30-day public comment period from 6 March 2012 until 4 April 2012. On March 30, 2012, VCS further announced minor revisions to several methodologies as follows to conform with its latest requirements:
- VM0003 Methodology for Improved Forest Management through Extension of Rotation Age, v1.0
- VM0005 Methodology for Conversion of Low-productive Forest to High-productive Forest, v1.1
- VM0006 Methodology for Carbon Accounting in Project Activities that Reduce Emissions from Mosaic Deforestation and Degradation, v1.0
- VM0007 REDD Methodology Modules (REDD-MF), v1.1
- VM0008 Methodology for Weatherization of Single and Multi-Family Buildings, v1.0
- VM0009 Methodology for Avoided Mosaic Deforestation of Tropical Forests, v1.1
- VM0010 Methodology for Improved Forest Management: Conversion from Logged to Protected Forest, v1.1
- VM0012 Improved Forest Management on Privately Owned Properties in Temperate and Boreal Forests (LtPF), v1.0
- VM0015 Methodology for Avoided Unplanned Deforestation, v1.0
Projects validated by 30 September 2012 could continue to use the current versions of the methodologies while all projects validated on a subsequent date would need to make the required revisions.
The present J-VER scheme will end by March 31, 2012. The Ministry of the Environment; Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are currently holding discussions on restructuring the J-VER system. The committee was to meet to discuss details on April 16, 2012.
No new updates.
New Forest Carbon projects since January 2012
Two CDM A/R projects from India were opened for public consultation in February 2012. India’s Sundarbans mangrove restoration project is expected to reduce 44,955 tCO2 per year and the agro-forestry project in Orissa is expected to reduce 7,329 tCO2 per year. Based on publicly accessible information, there were no new projects from Asia registered or entering the pipeline on voluntary market standards since January 2012.
Elsewhere in the world since January 2012, there have been around seven newly registered projects and four entering the pipeline as per published figures on the internet. Almost all of them relate to afforestation reforestation. Nine of them originate from Latin America and Africa.
This makes a total of seven newly registered projects and six entering the pipeline across the world. Standards breakup: 5 VCS, 5 CDM, 2 Plan Vivo and 1 Carbon Fix.
The Green Development Initiative (GDI) developed an international voluntary standard and certification system to promote CBD-compliant area-based conservation and promote private sector support for biodiversity conservation. In January 2012, GDI released the Biodiversity Areas Reference Guide (Version 00) for review and comment. The Biodiversity Area Management Standard described within creates a unit called “certified biodiversity hectare”. This geographically-defined area is managed to conserve biodiversity as per CBD objectives and to use the biodiversity sustainably and equitably as per best practices. The standard sets out the requirements and process for nominating, registering and certifying a biodiversity area.
Identify & nominate an area –> design a management plan using baseline assessment & stakeholder consultation (up to 2 years) –> register & certify biodiversity area –> manage the area (for 5 years) –> submit updated management plan for subsequent 5 years
No new updates
Table 1. Key features of forest carbon standards available for projects in Asia (Updated and consolidated to date). All forest carbon standards below require additionality and leakage to be addressed in specific ways.
|Project types||AR||AR, REDD, IFM||AR||AR, Revegetation, REDD, IFM, ALM, PRC, ACoGS|
|Location||Developing countries||Anywhere||Anywhere. Annex 1 country projects to ensure no double counting||Anywhere|
|Credits issued*||tCER, lCER||ERT||CO2-certificates||VCU|
|Crediting Period||30 years fixed, or 20 years ++ (max 60 years)||Stoplogging IFM & REDD 10 years, Other IFM 20 years, AR 40 years. Infinitely renewable.||Maximum 50 years||20-100 years++++ (max 100 years)|
|Permanence||Temporary credits need re-verification or reissuance||Minimum project term of 40 years. Assess risks, contribute credits to buffers, use insurance or other approved means||Secure tenure, capacitated workforce, compensation for shortfalls, 30% of credits in buffers||Risk assessment at every verification. 10-60% of credits into AFOLU Pooled Buffer|
|Environmental & Social Impacts/ Benefits||Assess & report in PDD. Approved EIA. Prove land cover eligibility for AR.||Prove land cover eligibility for AR. Requires net positive community & environmental impacts, initial impact assessments, mitigation plan for foreseen negative impacts, annual reporting of negative impacts/claims.||To prove land cover eligibility for AR and net positive ecological and socio-economic impacts. Includes protection of endangered species, buffering waterways, consulting stakeholders and not displacing people.||Identify & reduce potential negative environmental & socio-economic impacts. Encourages CCBS, FSC and other certification to obtain co-benefits.|
|Project validation||By approved independent DOEs||By approved independent verifiers||By approved independent verifiers||By approved independent verifiers (double approval of some components)|
|Verification of ER||Another DOE (Can be same DOE for small projects)||By approved independent verifiers at 1 to 5 year intervals||Every 5 years by approved independent verifiers||By approved independent verifiers (double approval of some components)|
|Carbon Registry||CDM & National||ACR||Markit||Markit, APX (Update: now NYSE Blue), Caisse des Dépôts|
|FC Standards||J-VER Scheme||Plan Vivo||ISO 14064-2||Panda|
|Project types||AR, SFM, thinning||AR, Agroforestry, Restoration, Avoided Deforestation||All||Forest Management, Forest & Vegetation increase|
|Location||Japan||Smallholder lands (or use rights), rural areas in developing countries||Anywhere||China|
|Credits issued*||JRM credits||Plan Vivo certificates||-||PS Credits|
|Crediting Period||FY2008-FY2012||10-100 years with 10 year increments||-||To be detailed|
|Permanence||3% deposit for Buffering||10% of credits into buffer based on risk classification||-||Risk assessment and % credit deposit in Panda Buffer Pool|
|Environmental & Social Impacts/ Benefits||Eligibility check by using the positive lists to ensure the social & environmental benefits||Improve livelihoods, conserve natural ecosystems, plant native/adapted||Specified in general terms||Assess and ensure positive socio-economic & environmental co-benefits. Mitigation plan for negative effects.|
|Project validation||By ISO 14065 accredited validation bodies||By Plan Vivo and expert reviewers||Recommends independent validation||By approved independent DOE|
|Verification of ER||By ISO 14065 accredited verification bodies||Every 5 years by approved independent verifiers||Recommends independent verification, gives guidelines||At least once in 5 years by approved DOEs|
|Carbon Registry||J-VER registry||Markit||-||Panda Standard Registry under development|
* Equal to one tCO2 except where specified. FC = Forest Carbon. ER = Emissions Reductions
Table 2. Key features of social and environmental standards available for forest carbon projects in Asia (Updated and consolidated to date).
|Socio-environmental standards||CCBS||Social Carbon||GCS||Crown Standard||BAMS|
|Scope||Evaluates land-based carbon mitigation projects in the early stage of development using 14 compulsory & three optional criteria. These criteria assess the impact of project to the climate, communities and to the biodiversity.||Based on sustainable livelihood approach and assess co-benefits of carbon offsets projects from six aspects (social, human, financial, natural, biodiversity & carbon).||Focus on social & environmental performance, sustainable development, local community participation. Revenue by CCUs reinvested in commercial forestry & agriculture for the local communities.||Evaluate environmental and social sustainability of CDM projects. Active participation of local community is important.||Focus at biodiversity conservation and sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity.|
|Project/ Area Location||Anywhere||Anywhere||Anywhere||Thailand||Anywhere|
|Validation of project or area||By approved independent auditors||By approved independent auditors||By approved third party auditors||Thailand DNA||By qualified certification auditors|
|Verification of performance||By approved independent auditors every five years||Annually by approved independent certifiers||Annually by approved third party auditors||Every three years||Annually by qualified certification auditors|
|Certification Units||-||SOCIALCARBON Credit||Conservation Credit Unit (CCU)||-||GDI-certified hectare|
|Registry||Markit||Markit||Own registry||-||Own registry|