International wildlife conservation charity, Fauna & Flora International (FFI), and Plan Vivo Foundation (PVF), the creators of the longest-running voluntary carbon market standard, have collaborated to develop a set of high-level principles for integrity in the emerging biodiversity credits market, which aim to minimise the risks of potential trading.

Biodiversity credits (also referred to as certificates) are a new concept, still under development, that are intended to create tradable biodiversity units (based on measurable impact) that can be transacted on a global market and, through such transactions, can channel finance into the net-positive, results-based biodiversity conservation activities upon which the credits are predicated.

The emerging biodiversity credits market represents a significant opportunity to increase much-needed finance for biodiversity conservation, while offering reduced risks for those on the ground and measured biodiversity outcomes for protecting and restoring nature. But biodiversity credits also have potential for great risk, if they are not managed in a responsible and inclusive manner.

FFI and PVF recognise the high level and range of risks associated with the emerging market, not least potential for greenwashing, lack of transparency, oversimplification of the complexities and value of nature, poorly defined pricing and inequitable benefit sharing. The organisations emphasise that, while building interest and support to deploy resources into biodiversity is critical, trading of credits must come with transparency and be managed carefully, taking learnings from the voluntary carbon market and utilising purpose built registries to manage who can buy, sell, and trade credits, and to prevent double claiming.

Therefore through the development of the high-level principles for integrity, FFI and PVF aim to appeal to a market that values high-integrity biodiversity credits that represent real, additional and verifiable benefits for biodiversity, but also for people and climate. The principles will aim to ensure the biodiversity market can successfully facilitate the channelling of responsible finance to Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs), through transparent and equitable benefit-sharing mechanisms.

Fundamentally, FFI and PVF urge that biodiversity credits are not to be used as offsets, but as positive incentives for landowners and communities to conserve and restore important habitats across the world, hence offering a strong potential pathway to Nature Positive – which aims to ensure species and ecosystems across the world are being restored and regenerated, rather than declining, by 2030.

Zoe Quiroz-Cullen, FFI, says: “There is a vast deficit in resources to fund action at scale for nature, estimated at $10T (USD) per annum. To truly put an end to the biodiversity crisis, it is crucial that we close this financial gap and unlock private funds to conserve nature. Biodiversity credits can offer a valuable part of the solution, particularly as private sector organisations begin to recognise the urgency of not just reducing their impact on nature loss, but of positively contributing to restoration and regeneration.

“There are, however, many factors to consider if biodiversity credits are to have an equally positive impact across nature, climate and people. An overarching commitment for us is to ensure that resources are channelled directly to IPLCs, empowering and incentivising people on the ground to be the custodians of their own natural resources.”

The principles have been developed through FFI’s and PVF’s collective expertise and resources, and are based on lessons from what has and hasn’t worked in the voluntary carbon market. They span the three key areas of climate, nature and people and include parameters such as:

  • Real, robust and verifiable biodiversity benefits that accelerate progress towards achieving jurisdictional and global goals for the recovery of nature
  • Rights of IPLCS are respected, protected and result in locally appropriate, equitably distributed and positive social impact
  • Mitigation and adaptation activities to deliver climate benefits in line with international agreements and national strategies enhancing or maintaining carbon pools

Keith Bohannon, PVF, says: “At the heart of this partnership between FFI and PVF are shared values and a joint ambition that the biodiversity credits market is characterised and shaped by best practice at its genesis. We are looking to collaborate further with other responsible actors in this space - including the World Economic Forum, the Biodiversity Credit Alliance and the United Nations Development Programme – to help shape a future biodiversity credits market that meets the outlined broad high-integrity principles. It is going to be a long road to navigate, but only by working together and taking a unified approach can we ensure real impact for nature, people and climate, underpinned by transparency and strong governance.”

PVF, FFI and other partners have been scoping and developing a Biodiversity Standard (PV Nature), based on these high-level integrity principles. The Standard is adapting an innovative methodology developed by the Wallacea Trust for application. Informed by consultations with a range of stakeholders, including project developers, such as Carbon Tanzania, who strongly support this high-integrity approach, with market actors, and with pilot projects located in different habitats and ecoregions, PV Nature will be launched in 2023 following an open public consultation planned for the end of January towards a full launch in 2023.

For further questions or queries regarding the Plan Vivo Biodiversity Standard (PV Nature), please email [email protected]

Banner Image: Douglas Pikacha/supplied by the Nakau Programme