Question 1: “What is the value of additional REDD+ metrics, and what are the challenges associated with developing them?”
(Note: By Additional Metrics, we mean more robust quantification of co-benefits beyond what is typically done in current protocols, so that the projects’ MRV efforts not only demonstrate that safeguards are met, but also generate quantified, saleable units of benefit).
Feedback from interviewees: In discussion with our interviewees, the overall consensus is that the current framework is already very complicated. There are already the carbon protocols which are complex in themselves and take a lot of time and measurement. If other standards were added to measure co-benefits, the system would be overly complex and there would be even more criteria to sift through, measure and analyze. The point of the program is carbon. Adding a lot of other metrics takes away from that.
In the words of one interviewee: “we’re trying to hang too much around the donkey’s neck, and this donkey is just going to collapse.”
Question 2: “Which Co-Benefits can be monetized?”
We explored this question given (1) the resistance to adding complexity to the system, and (2) whether there are even opportunities to sell the co-benefit, once you’ve measured it.
Given the resistance to adding complexity, and the fact that there aren’t ready-made markets into which one can sell water, biodiversity, or social benefits if you go through the effort of measuring them, we focused on opportunities to integrate REDD+ into existing mechanisms that connect buyers and sellers of benefits.
1) Biodiversity Offsetting: Standards requiring no-net-loss of biodiversity in development projects are gaining traction in the financial sector through the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Performance Standards and the Equator Principles, which apply the IFC standards to private banks. A broad group of organizations developed the BBOP standards as a way to demonstrate compliance with these standards through defensible biodiversity offset projects. It is relatively new, and being piloted in several projects, but has already been recognized by the IFC as a best practice for meeting its standards. As some (including our client) have argued, there is no reason REDD+ projects can’t also serve as biodiversity offset projects. Integrating REDD+ and Biodiversity Offsetting can achieve efficiencies for both programs: setting up a REDD+ project or a biodiversity offset requires a heavy lift, including setting up functioning MRV and governance frameworks. If a large project can serve both objectives, then it can produce both benefits at lower cost (assuming Additionality is satisfied). What we noticed in our research is that BBOP and CCB are very similar. If BBOP gains traction within biodiversity offsetting, there could be opportunities to satisfy biodiversity demand through REDD+ projects by reconciling the two standards, which should be possible given significant overlap between the organizations that manage the two, or by having them formally recognize one another, so demonstrating compliance with one automatically demonstrates compliance with the other.
2) Water Funds: The water fund model is used all over the world, particularly in Latin America, where The Nature Conservancy has established many, and is working through the LA Water Funds Partnership to build 32 by 2016. The general water fund model: water users and others kick funding into a single fund, which then centrally identifies and evaluates opportunities to improve water quality through management changes upstream. The fund then disperses payments to upstream landowners in return for performing the relevant management. REDD+ projects could be integrated into Water Funds, where there are opportunities for portions of the landscape to both deliver water quality benefits to water users, and carbon benefits to carbon purchasers.