New Geospatial Offerings Provide More Confidence In REDD+ Carbon Credit Purchases

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New Geospatial Offerings Provide More Confidence In REDD+ Carbon Credit Purchases

Questions of carbon credit ‘additionality’ have long stained the reputation of carbon credits, in particular those deemed to be REDD+ (“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”) under the COP framework. A REDD+ credit essentially represents emissions saved as a result of preventing biomass loss from deforestation, and have been heavily leveraged due to low prices by emissions-intensive businesses.

To ensure that an appropriate amount of credits are produced for any particular REDD+ project, developers must identify the ‘baseline’ on the particular region, representing what would happen to the forest if no project was undertaken. Historically, baselines where static. To estimate the carbon impact of a project, developers would use historical rates of deforestation and extend these forward. This assumes a static change in biomass over time, with variation based on estimated market trends, such as the cost of lumber, or agricultural expansion in a particular area.

Pachama, a carbon credit verification and monitoring firm, is seeking to improve the quality of carbon credits by leveraging geospatial data to measure core metrics relating to forest cover and density. Essentially, Pachama creates a carbon map of an area leveraging field plots, 3D Lidar, and radar to estimate the biomass of a specific area. This allows firms buying credits to compare real time deforestation rates of surrounding areas against the real biomass preservation represented by a particular project. As a result, buyers can avoid reputational, and potentially legal or regulatory risk, from buying credits with no positive climate impact.

This is a major move in the REDD+ space. Better baseline analysis improves the viability of REDD+ credits for decarbonisation, and can help quantify the ‘+’ benefits to REDD+ credits, relating to biodiversity and ecosystem preservation.
Pachama paves the way for other firms to embark on creating their own, specific quality standards, thereby potentially building a greater sense of trust in carbon credits as a legitimate decarbonisation tool. Similar technologies could potentially also be used to create quality standards around, for instance, ocean-based blue carbon projects. For project developers, the benefit to achieving certification with newly developed standards is clear, as corporates clamber to secure high-quality credit supply.

Connor Taylor

Senior Analyst

Connor is a Senior Analyst in the Verdantix Net Zero & Climate Risk practice. His current research agenda focuses on carbon management software, climate change consulting services, and the voluntary carbon markets. Connor joined Verdantix in 2021, with prior experience in EHS technology sales and development. He holds a BA from the University of Cambridge in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic.