Combining FSC & REDD Certification
Timber is a physical product: both buyer and seller can inspect it, agree on the quality and quantity, and from there determine a price and conclude the sale. Avoided emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases are much harder to manage, because they are essentially intangible; if the forest totally disappears a buyer can ascertain that they have been duped, but otherwise it is hard for customers to be really sure of what they are buying when they purchase carbon offsets.
All markets are built on trust, so in the carbon markets both sides rely on trusted intermediaries to demonstrate that the product is genuine and meets all the requirements of additionality and permanence. Because of the risks involved the markets also often require that carbon savings be calculated conservatively and that a significant proportion of carbon offsets generated should be put aside in a risk buffer as insurance in case one or more conditions are found to be violated. Essentially all these boil down to a set of accounting rules for determining under what circumstances carbon savings can be included and at what rate they can be converted into saleable carbon offsets.
Within the voluntary markets the best known and toughest standards are maintained by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Association. They model their requirements on the rules put forward by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (the Kyoto Protocol etc.), so projects and organisations that meet VCS criteria should be able to transition relatively easily to the international regulated market as and when it may emerge.
A method for quantifying carbon gains
VCS have defined an overall framework and approach to carbon accounting, but have not attempted to set out how each and every project should work, because the range of possibilities is just so huge. Instead they have left it to other organisations to propose methodologies that comply with VCS rules. Such proposals are then opened up for public comment and subjected to a demanding and rigorous two-stage approvals process. Once completed projects all round the world can seek to implement these recognised methodologies if they meet the criteria defined in the method.
When MCDI started this project no VCS methodologies existed for the quantification of carbon gains through fire management in dryland forests, so MCDI has developed it own method. This was submitted to the VCS on 25th February 2014.