“We want to make sure that the carbon benefits are permanent.”

Richard Cuthbert, Director of Conservation at World Land Trust (WLT), explains how the environmental charity measures how much carbon is saved through its work and the principles the charity adheres to.

What types of carbon projects do you carry out?

We have two varieties of carbon projects. We have our own self-certified projects as well as projects that are certified by a third party that follows the Verra methodology. Our own projects follow the principles that were developed by the climate community and biodiversity standards CCB, which was set up over 10 years ago. CCB principles revolve around projects being effective, having meaningful impacts, are equitable, and that the benefits are shared properly, particularly with the local communities and landowners.

What are the most important considerations when planning a project?

There are a number of considerations. The first is that it’s ethical and we’re not pushing projects on top of people. It has to have the support of the local organisation and local communities that are affected by the project. It also has to be adaptive. We measure our projects, and if they are not working well, we change things. That’s how a good business works. The other principle is that it’s transparent. We have to be able to present what we’re doing and stand by that. I should also add that these principles aren’t just for carbon projects, but for all the projects run by WLT.

How do you actually measure the impact of a carbon-balance project?

It’s relatively straightforward. With tree-planting projects, we’re measuring the areas to be planted, the number of trees, information on the growth rate and the carbon content of the trees that the project’s going to plant. We can then predict the project’s climate impact and set up a plan to measure the climate benefits.

For forest protection projects, we first need to understand the amount of carbon in the forest. So we dig a series of forest carbon plots to look at what carbon is there, then we look at baseline rates of deforestation based on historical forest loss analysis. So if we weren’t preserving those forests, what is our prediction of what would happen to those forests, and its impact on carbon levels?

Which carbon-balance projects are you currently running?

We have a number all over the world. Our largest is in Khe Nuoc Trong in Vietnam, which is a self-certifying World Land Trust carbon-balanced project. This protects forests in the Annamite mountains and lowlands, which is home to some incredibly rare animals, such as the red-shanked duoc, a globally endangered monkey species. The whole project covers around 52,000 acres, and over the 20-year lifetime of the project, we predict that it’s going to save about a million tonnes of carbon.

What are your key long-term aims with a project?

We’re always looking to make sure that the carbon benefits and the biodiversity benefits are as permanent as possible, and that they’re additional. So if the project wasn’t there, what would have happened without it? It’s making sure that the project that we’re supporting is causing something to happen, whether it’s planting trees that wouldn’t have otherwise been planted or protecting forests that would otherwise have been destroyed. That’s at the heart of any project.

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