Verra Adopts Stronger Carbon Offset Standards For Forest Projects

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

Verra, a non-profit that sets the standards used to assess carbon reduction projects and certifies their effectiveness, announced that it has strengthened its forest preservation and restoration standard, updating it based on their ten years of experience in evaluating projects and on the latest science.  They are the leading organization that measures greenhouse gas emission reductions and removals and issues carbon offset credits for use in global voluntary and compliance markets.  Verra has applied the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) to 1,687 projects that have helped cut down 582 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.  These new updates will allow Verra to integrate project activities with government-led efforts that can play to the strengths of each.

Why this Matters:  We cannot hold warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius without nature based solutions such as preserving existing forests and restoring others.  Certification by Verra is crucial to ensure the benefits are real rather than just on paper.  As Verra CEO David Antonioli explained, “…Carbon markets are well-positioned to be an important solution to climate change, and our role as a standard-setter means we need to ensure that the available carbon finance is channeled to activities on the ground that demonstrably reduce deforestation and strengthen forest restoration activities.”

Solidified Standards

Verra’s certification program makes it possible for projects to turn their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions and removals into tradable carbon credits. The  Verra Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program is the world’s largest voluntary GHG program.   Verra also now provides the Verra Registry , which was launched in 2020, and provides to the public information on certified projects, credits issued and retired units, and thus makes it possible to buy and sell carbon offset units. The registry makes available all the information and documentation relating to Verra projects and credits.

Verra chief program officer Naomi Swickard added: “Saving the world’s forests is critically important, not only in the fight against climate change, but also because of the communities and biodiversity they sustain.”  Verra is providing new infrastructures to align projects with national accounting and incorporate new understandings of “leakage,” which suggests that deforestation in one area can affect deforestation in another. Verra also plans to shed light on the definitions of rights to emission reductions, particularly important to indigenous forest communities.

Verra will also strengthen project carbon “buffers,” an insurance policy where each project puts some of its carbon offset credits to a buffer. The buffer can be used if a fire or other disaster causes carbon from forests to escape into the atmosphere.  Verra hopes that these changes can lead to reduced emissions from deforestation and forest conservation, as well as projects that directly protect forests, like buildings fire lines to protect against wildfires, and guarding the forest to stop illegal logging. 

To Go Deeper: Read all about carbon offsets and their verification here.

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