Rainforest carbon credit schemes less effective than thought, claims report

  • September 18, 2023
Rainforest carbon credit schemes less effective than thought, claims report

Libby Blanchard is a co-author of a paper which calls into question the effectiveness of REDD+ schemes

Current REDD+ methodologies likely generate credits that represent a small fraction of their claimed climate benefit

Libby Blanchard et al

The effectiveness of widely used rainforest carbon credit schemes has been called into question by a new study.

The study, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Carbon Crediting,  by the Berkeley Carbon Trading Project is co-authored by Gates Cambridge Scholar Libby Blanchard [2012] and has been making headlines around the world.

It brings together  an interdisciplinary team of political and natural ecologists and ecosystem modelers and aims to comprehensively assess the quality of REDD+ carbon credits when it comes to reducing deforestation, generating high-quality carbon credits and protecting forest communities.

REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is the project type with the most credits on the voluntary carbon market, accounting for about a quarter of all credits to date. The study focuses on five key programme elements: baselines, leakage, forest carbon accounting, durability and safeguards.

The researchers found that estimates of emissions reductions were exaggerated across all quantification factors they reviewed when compared to the published literature and an independent quantitative project assessment. They say: “As a result, current REDD+ methodologies likely generate credits that represent a small fraction of their claimed climate benefit. Safeguard policies, presented as ensuring “no net harm” to forest communities, in practice have been treated as voluntary guidance.”
While many studies have documented poor carbon offset quality, the new analysis goes a step further in exploring the underlying reasons credit quality is poor. In some cases, the researchers say the methodologies did not align with good practice. Moreover, when the requirements were vague or flexible, they found that developers commonly made methodological choices that led to more credits and the auditors commonly did not enforce conservativeness, accuracy and “even reasonableness”.
Their overall conclusion is that REDD+ is ill-suited to the generation of carbon credits for use as offsets. They suggest a number of other actions that private actors can take or support that together can help to reduce tropical deforestation.
*Photo credit: James Shook of Ulva Island, New Zealand, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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