Evolution of carbon offset methodologies
Carbon offset methodologies are designed to evolve in response to the changing realities, capabilities, and new science. Two prominent registries, the American Carbon Registry (ACR) and the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) are in the process of updating two of their forest carbon methodologies to reflect these conditions. A central tenet of these processes are transparency and public review.
Updates to ACR’s Improved Forest Management (IFM) methodology were focused on bolstering and clarifying additionality by better incorporating the forest management objectives of conservation organizations. A lively public comment period in late 2021 provided a forum for stakeholders to consider the value and practicality of the proposed changes. The process resulted in methodology changes that reflect the stakeholder consensus of maintaining both rigorous eligibility standards and a clear development process. The ACR IFM methodology is currently in the scientific peer review stage and is expected to be formally adopted soon.
The public comment period for the Reforestation Forecast Methodology under CAR’s Climate Forward program also concluded recently. Proposed updates to that protocol included a new programmatic monitoring initiative to track the efficacy of its permanence risk pool in mitigating unavoidable reversals and accounting methods for carbon in trees and shrubs that pre-date project activities. The public comment process reflected perspectives on logistical challenges for developers and land managers in taking plot photos before site preparation because this organizations typically begin some level of site work immediately after a wildfire. Alternative methods of converting ex-ante to ex-poste credits via satellite imagery were also proposed. These proposed changes will be further evaluated through consideration of stakeholder input and peer review.
The development process for ACR and CAR’s methodology updates illustrates the transparency and resolution of productive tension between prioritizing expedient development with rigorous standards for additionality and realistic accounting. Science-based and transparent processes such as these are integral to maintaining a credible and high-quality carbon market.
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