Co-benefits of natural climate solutions (NCS) carbon offsets have always generated a premium price. This is because buyers can associate their carbon purchase with those co-benefits, but the exact relationship is rarely clear. With the explosion of interest in NCS offsets and the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets’ work to develop a framework of core carbon principles with additional attributes, it is becoming increasingly important to clarify co-benefit definition, ownership, and claims.
NCS carbon projects usually enhance more co-benefits than they generate. Co-benefits might therefore be differentiated between co-benefit enhancements and co-benefit generations to set realistic expectations for the claims that might be made from the purchase of co-benefit attributes. For example, an IFM project that increases carbon stocking forest-wide might contribute to increased water quality but it is the actual land-use as a forest that makes the biggest difference. Similarly, carbon revenues might allow land managers to retain more trees for wildlife, but the managers’ stand-level decisions to retain cavity and mast trees and thermal cover are critical too. On the other hand, a reforestation project might actually generate the entire water quality benefit because the planted trees’ canopy intercepts rain falling on soil and the roots hold soil in place.
Either way, it is the clarity that is important. Simply conveying co-benefit title may not be sufficiently clear with regards to future environmental credit development. Buyers need to know what they’re buying and landowners need to know what they’re selling and receive appropriate compensation. Clarity now will avoid future confusion and conflict as environmental markets continue to develop.
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