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Confidence in forest carbon projects is growing

Advances in technology mean that businesses now need to reconsider investing in forests if they need to offset their emissions, writes Robert Spencer of AECOM.

Forest carbon projects are experiencing a problem of trust: they are either accused of licensing large businesses to pollute the environment, or the question arises as to whether they will last long enough to operate.

As an industry focused on sustainability, we have the technological and scientific tools to change this narrative, and rightly so, as the benefits of investing in sustainable forests and other natural climate solutions are obvious.

Inspirational commitments at COP26 at the UN Climate Change Conference talks in Glasgow highlighted the need for more concentration and investment aimed at deforestation and reforestation. By their nature, our richest forest habitats with the largest carbon reserves are in hard-to-reach places, they are difficult to obtain and measure.

We need to enable businesses to assess the amount of natural climate solution in which they invest and its effectiveness. If we cannot provide the best evidence of the effectiveness of natural climate solutions, including forests, then we are hampering the ability to rapidly scale this solution as well as monitor the effectiveness of significant investments in natural climate. In addition, we may be hindering the flow of financial capital to the same communities that will benefit from managing these vital global natural resources to address climate change.

I recently chaired the Scientific Working Group of His Highness’s Working Group, Prince of Wales Sustainable Markets Initiative on Natural Solutions, where we felt the need to highlight existing approaches and technology platforms to help address these issues in the near future.

This is where remote sensing technology has changed, which is now sufficiently developed as a tool to begin accurately quantifying biomass (and therefore carbon) in natural forests. This technology includes aerial and LiDAR satellite (light detection and range), RADAR satellite (radio detection and range) and multispectral / hyperspectral imaging. The combination of these platforms and data collection sources allows you to get an efficient way to measure data and establish a reliable, independent way to quantify results. However, we have not yet achieved in terms of the full picture with an accuracy of only 60-70 percent at best.

To maximize the benefits of these technological breakthroughs, we need significant efforts to support machine learning distance assessment technologies to more accurately read carbon in plant and terrain life. What I mean by revealing the truth are teams on the ground that provide real-world data sets on tree biomass and soil carbon content so that AI can more effectively extrapolate to scale and to different biomes. This will give carbon markets (ratings and conservation authorities) more confidence in natural climate decisions and even help harmonize voluntary carbon market deals and countries ’efforts to reduce national emissions according to their nationally defined contributions (NACs). And while we’re at it, it’s worth thinking about how these technologies can also enable the proliferation of projects that maximize both carbon and wider environmental and social benefits.

The result of the work of our task force was a number of recommendations. We would like to see the mobilization of an international task force to find out global above-ground and underground carbon stocks – that is, carbon stored in forests and soils. As we wrote in the task force’s report, “These accurate forest data will provide more confidence in the performance of individual natural climate solutions, strengthen the integrity and size of the voluntary carbon market and ultimately support the integration of natural climate solutions into the global market.”

The second recommendation is the need to update carbon credit methodologies in voluntary carbon markets to reflect the latest carbon science, as well as technologies that have changed the way we monitor, report and verify. If we can get clear and consistent guidance on how to use this data, it will give more confidence to potential investors.

In the report, we also called for an international summit of leaders and policy makers, including relevant standardization bodies, to address vague barriers and promote innovation in the assessment of natural climate solutions. We are working on it.

So what does all this mean for business? The first and most important point is that businesses should always minimize their own carbon emissions rather than seek compensation. If businesses have to compensate, then if they look at where to invest, use the Oxford Principles and believe that the responsibility for compensation in natural solutions – especially in forests – is improving.

If you previously ruled out this type of investment, now is the time to reconsider – the potential climate benefits from larger investments in forests are now huge.

Robert Spencer is the world head of ESG’s advisory service at AECOM.

Reported by Source link

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Confidence in forest carbon projects is growing

Advances in technology mean that businesses now need to reconsider investing in forests if they need to offset their emissions, writes Robert Spencer of AECOM.

Forest carbon projects are experiencing a problem of trust: they are either accused of licensing large businesses to pollute the environment, or the question arises as to whether they will last long enough to operate.

As an industry focused on sustainability, we have the technological and scientific tools to change this narrative, and rightly so, as the benefits of investing in sustainable forests and other natural climate solutions are obvious.

Inspirational commitments at COP26 at the UN Climate Change Conference talks in Glasgow highlighted the need for more concentration and investment aimed at deforestation and reforestation. By their nature, our richest forest habitats with the largest carbon reserves are in hard-to-reach places, they are difficult to obtain and measure.

We need to enable businesses to assess the amount of natural climate solution in which they invest and its effectiveness. If we cannot provide the best evidence of the effectiveness of natural climate solutions, including forests, then we are hampering the ability to rapidly scale this solution as well as monitor the effectiveness of significant investments in natural climate. In addition, we may be hindering the flow of financial capital to the same communities that will benefit from managing these vital global natural resources to address climate change.

I recently chaired the Scientific Working Group of His Highness’s Working Group, Prince of Wales Sustainable Markets Initiative on Natural Solutions, where we felt the need to highlight existing approaches and technology platforms to help address these issues in the near future.

This is where remote sensing technology has changed, which is now sufficiently developed as a tool to begin accurately quantifying biomass (and therefore carbon) in natural forests. This technology includes aerial and LiDAR satellite (light detection and range), RADAR satellite (radio detection and range) and multispectral / hyperspectral imaging. The combination of these platforms and data collection sources allows you to get an efficient way to measure data and establish a reliable, independent way to quantify results. However, we have not yet achieved in terms of the full picture with an accuracy of only 60-70 percent at best.

To maximize the benefits of these technological breakthroughs, we need significant efforts to support machine learning distance assessment technologies to more accurately read carbon in plant and terrain life. What I mean by revealing the truth are teams on the ground that provide real-world data sets on tree biomass and soil carbon content so that AI can more effectively extrapolate to scale and to different biomes. This will give carbon markets (ratings and conservation authorities) more confidence in natural climate decisions and even help harmonize voluntary carbon market deals and countries ’efforts to reduce national emissions according to their nationally defined contributions (NACs). And while we’re at it, it’s worth thinking about how these technologies can also enable the proliferation of projects that maximize both carbon and wider environmental and social benefits.

The result of the work of our task force was a number of recommendations. We would like to see the mobilization of an international task force to find out global above-ground and underground carbon stocks – that is, carbon stored in forests and soils. As we wrote in the task force’s report, “These accurate forest data will provide more confidence in the performance of individual natural climate solutions, strengthen the integrity and size of the voluntary carbon market and ultimately support the integration of natural climate solutions into the global market.”

The second recommendation is the need to update carbon credit methodologies in voluntary carbon markets to reflect the latest carbon science, as well as technologies that have changed the way we monitor, report and verify. If we can get clear and consistent guidance on how to use this data, it will give more confidence to potential investors.

In the report, we also called for an international summit of leaders and policy makers, including relevant standardization bodies, to address vague barriers and promote innovation in the assessment of natural climate solutions. We are working on it.

So what does all this mean for business? The first and most important point is that businesses should always minimize their own carbon emissions rather than seek compensation. If businesses have to compensate, then if they look at where to invest, use the Oxford Principles and believe that the responsibility for compensation in natural solutions – especially in forests – is improving.

If you previously ruled out this type of investment, now is the time to reconsider – the potential climate benefits from larger investments in forests are now huge.

Robert Spencer is the world head of ESG’s advisory service at AECOM.

Reported by Source link

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