Ricarda Röller

Our Response to the Guardian and Die Zeit Articles on REDD+ Offsets

Jan 23 2023 | 3 MINS READ


dense forest

We need rainforests to fight global warming. Deforestation of rainforests remains one of the largest human made sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Guardian and Die Zeit’s recent articles rightfully highlighted the need for quality and integrity in the Voluntary Carbon Market.

However, the articles put at risk an entire market despite the scope of investigation only concerning one specific project type: REDD+ projects. All other project types, such as reforestation, regenerative agriculture or mangrove restoration are not discussed. Furthermore, the articles do not offer a fully encompassing view on the actual state of science regarding REDD+ projects.

REDD+ projects protect areas of rainforests which are highly endangered by deforestation.

The articles criticize the methodology applied by the VERRA standard to these projects. In particular, to calculate the “baseline” of deforestation and the question: how much deforestation would have happened without the protection of the rainforests through the project? The cited studies claim that the actual deforestation risk is much lower than claimed by the VERRA projects and hence the issued number of carbon credits is exaggerated.

While we appreciate every initiative to increase the quality of Nature-based Solution projects in the Voluntary Carbon Market, the messages conveyed in these articles are, unfortunately, misleading. They only reflect one point of view, which is not sufficient to reach the conclusions detailed.

Most importantly, the methodology used to calculate the “alternative baselines” contain limitations – which the study clearly states – that have been ignored by the journalists. The study offers one view but not necessarily a more accurate baseline than project specific baselines.

Reputable players in the Voluntary Carbon Market, such as the rating agencies Sylvera and BeZero, but also the standard in question, VERRA, and large project developers, like Everland, have pointed out the flaws of this study in detail.

Our View

REDD+ projects are essential to conserve our rainforests and offer a great approach to funnel money from the private sector to help fight large-scale deforestation.

Badly designed REDD+ projects need to be identified and not used for offsetting due to missing additionality or credit overestimation.

Well-designed projects effectively reduce deforestation in highly threatened areas, but also provide substantial benefits to local communities including livelihood improvements, better education and health services.

Local, synthetic, or national baselines: the calculation of “baselines” in REDD+ projects have proven to be challenging. It is important to evaluate the methodology and assumptions of each individual project when choosing a REDD+ project for offsetting purposes.

goodcarbon’s mission is to increase the quality of projects in the Voluntary Carbon Market. That’s why we assess each project thoroughly. Analyzing the risk of credit overestimation has been a critical part of this quality analysis from the very beginning. The high importance of this factor is being emphasized by the publication of this recent article and we welcome this critical discussion.

We hope that the focus on quality in the VCM will increase through the current discussion and that impacts generated through Nature-based Solution projects can be further enhanced.

If you are interested in continuing the discussion, we would love to hear from you as we collectively seek to tackle the climate crisis. Simply write us on LinkedIn, or email us at info@goodcarbon.earth.