Now is the time to boldly grow (forests)
The world needs to be fully aligned with the power of nature to sequester carbon and the power of people to make things happen. We need to continue to get behind the high quality Nature Projects that are getting the results we need. In fact we need to scale our involvement in these projects, be bold, not hesitate.
The facts are clear. Research shows nature-based solutions (Nature Projects) can provide up to 37% of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to keep global climate goals in reach. If this is to be realised, investments into Nature Projects need to double by 2025, and triple by 2030. Forest Restoration is essential.
But to achieve these benefits from a carbon point of view (which is only a part of the whole holistic picture), we need to make sure we are growing the projects that are getting the results. Those that are high integrity, well designed and held to account under a meaningful standard. In a world that is massively polarised in view points, we need to make the simple distinction between projects on the basis of results, not just ‘tar all projects with the same brush’ (recent press articles have done exactly that, spotlighting Amazonian projects in a negative way without offering any balance to the narrative by recognising very different projects that are succeeding).
What do quality nature-based solutions look like?
From working directly with projects all over the world, we know that excellent project design from an ecological and carbon point of view is not just essential but achievable (Projects like Trees for Global Benefits, achieves AA ratings from BeZero meaning a very high likelihood of sequestering the carbon the project expects in the long term). But more than that, there must be a focus on improving people’s livelihoods. In building for livelihoods, landowners are not only incentivised to grow trees, they are also incentivised to keep those trees in the ground. This promotes the durability, and therefore the success, of a forest carbon removal project.
Through high-quality forest carbon removal projects, smallholder farmers such as Arminda Troche can improve their livelihoods by growing trees.
Alongside livelihoods, forest restoration must work in service of nature. That means growing native tree species, encouraging natural regeneration, and carefully selecting land that is suitable for restoration.
Interventions should be based on robust science-based carbon forecasting, and progress regularly monitored and reported so that outcomes can be tracked transparently. Third-party validation and verification provide further confirmation as to a project’s legitimacy.
High quality Nature Projects work with people and nature. They are built into dynamic living systems and must deal with variability. Trees will die. Farmers will die or sell up and leave the project. Such situations are entirely normal and do not constitute ‘failures’ in the context of a well designed dynamic project. What’s important is that the project design accounts for these scenarios to ensure that the impacts claimed are realised.
Projects that deliver on quality achieve so much more than carbon impacts. When C Level and our clients fund forest restoration we are also rehabilitating ecosystems, improving water security, creating jobs, and promoting biodiversity.
How do we finance Nature Projects to scale impact?
Creating high quality carbon removals and reductions through nature-based solutions depends on upfront financing.
Ex-ante or forward order credits represent a removal activity that will take place in the future. This fits in with the project economics of holistic forest restoration projects.
It can take 10-20+ years for carbon sequestration targets to be fully achieved. In the meantime, project developers must cover the cost of establishing a project, managing operations, and providing value to those implementing climate solutions at a local level. Projects need support from corporates and investors to cover these upfront costs to fully commit to local communities over long timeframes. You get what you pay for, but it takes time. This is the nature of these projects.
If this support is lost, project developers will be unlikely to be able to find enough funds and there won’t be enough money to grow trees. Communities may come to see NbS as another failed promise for economic prosperity. So, if we don’t invest in growing trees now, we lose a high-potential solution to the address the climate and biodiversity crises.
Future Forests & Impact
The market for Nature Projects in the voluntary carbon market is nascent and small. It has quadrupled during 2021 and 2022 to reach $2 billion, but this is still very small. We have narrowing window of opportunity to mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis and restore nature. Nature-based solutions can sequester carbon, restore ecosystems, and improve livelihoods. These solutions are available to us now, with huge potential for scale. If we are to secure a nature-positive future, we must boldly step forward with the people who have worked hard over decades to prove this potential.