Changes to Verra’s Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ Framework to Advance Global Climate Goals

Naomi Swickard

Verra has made critical updates to its Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ Framework that will strengthen the ability of forest conservation and restoration efforts to contribute to global climate goals by enabling the integration of project activities with jurisdictional efforts.

07 May 2021 | This framework leverages the strengths of both scales of implementation. Governments create enabling environments and the right incentives for forest protection. REDD+ projects tend to be more nimble and effective at delivering services to local actors, including communities, and addressing local drivers of deforestation.

Jurisdictional and project-based REDD+ efforts are also likely to tap into different pools of capital. Jurisdictional REDD+ efforts are more likely to be of interest to buyer/donor governments given the larger scale of reductions that can be achieved. And while some corporates may be interested in that scale, REDD+ projects are more likely to appeal to the private sector who will want to have a clear story to tell (e.g., “we helped protect this forest and these species”) and may prefer having a specific counterparty.

What Is Different?

To strengthen the rules for this integration of project-based REDD+ with jurisdictional efforts, several updates were made, most notably:  

  • Updates to ensure high-integrity accounting of emission reductions at the jurisdictional level that reflect the latest science and best practice;
  • Project baselines will be set on the basis of jurisdiction-wide Forest Reference Emission Levels (FRELs) and risk of deforestation and/or forest degradation; 
  • These FRELs will need to be updated more frequently, from the current 5-10 year timeframe down to a 4-6 year interval. Additionally, the FREL historical reference period was shortened from 8-12 to 4-6 years. 

Different Ways of Accounting

These updates are made with the primary goal of driving high-quality greenhouse gas emission reductions at multiple scales and ensuring that the accounting of emission reductions at the project level is aligned and harmonized with government accounting. This does not mean that the old project-based approach was invalid. All existing projects followed the requirements and the accounting methodologies that were in place when they were registered, and which were developed taking into account best practice, lessons learned, the latest scientific findings at the time, and extensive stakeholder input. Given those projects followed the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) program requirements and the respective accounting methodologies, including having the project design validated and the results verified by independent auditors, their emission reductions are real and permanent.

The new approach to setting baselines (based on Forest Reference Emission Levels, FRELs and risk of deforestation and/or forest degradation) is a different way of doing this, but does not mean that the previous approach was inaccurate. Indeed, many experts suggest that jurisdictional accounting by itself may not adequately reflect  the level of threat faced by particular patches of forest. In addition, it is important to note that, before the emergence of FRELs, projects had to establish baselines without the benefit of jurisdiction-wide data. Now that many countries have established FRELs, they can be used as the basis for accounting across the entire jurisdiction, including to help establish project baselines that are fully aligned with government-led accounting and the risk of deforestation and/or forest degradation. Together, this will allow high-integrity approaches across multiple scales that both facilitates accounting and helps ensure finance can flow to where it is most needed — from national to project levels.  

This change is analogous to some of the technological developments that we have seen in audio. As a result of progress in this area, we now have technologies like mp3 files and satellite radio. However, vinyl records still exist and produce excellent sound quality, even though they may not be as simple to store and are not as readily shared as electronic formats. But just because most of us rely on electronic formats for listening to music, this does not discount the value of vinyl. At the end of the day, both electronic formats and vinyl records produce music, and both previous and current approaches to setting REDD+ project baselines generate real and permanent emission reductions. 

REDD+ has demonstrated that finance can be effectively channeled to long-term forest conservation by helping local communities thrive without having to destroy the surrounding forest. The task at hand is now to make sure that the lessons learned over the last decade are incorporated into evolving frameworks behind REDD+, and that means integrating projects and emerging government efforts so that we can leverage as much finance as possible to protect the world’s remaining forests.

Naomi Swickard is Chief Program Officer at Verra.

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