NFS Standard

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This section sets out the normative requirements for projects within the NFS.  Each requirement of the standard is numbered, and when you click on a standard requirement, a text box will appear underneath providing a brief piece of guidance information and links to further guidance and definitions.

DownloadsDownload the NFS Standard V1.2 here – English Version| Versão em Português

1 Eligibility Criteria

1.1 Project Activities

1.1.1 The project shall plan to avoid deforestation and degradation of natural forests, and/or restore degraded natural forest within a defined project area or project areas.

The project should provide evidence in the form of maps and vegetation surveys or descriptions to show that the project area conforms to the NFS definition of natural forest.

Areas to be subject to restoration activities should be identified. Guidance on restoration should be obtained from organisations or individuals with relevant expertise, and restoration activities should be designed with the objective to restore the original forest structure, which should be still present in other areas of the forest or local region.

For more information, see the guidance section on Natural Forest.

1.1.2 The project shall conserve an area of natural forest of no less than 20,000 hectares.

The NFS performance benchmark approach requires a minimum area for statistically valid risk assessment.

1.1.3 Project activities shall not include commercial timber extraction.

The project shall establish and demonstrate that commercial timber extraction, in accordance with the NFS definition, is not taking place within the project area.  This should not prevent the sustainable use of forest resources by local communities.

For more information, see the guidance section on project eligibility.

1.2 Legal Status

1.2.1 The project operator shall comply with all applicable laws, regulations and nationally ratified international treaties conventions and agreements.

The directors of the project should warrant that the project, or project organisation, is not in violation of any applicable laws, regulations and relevant environmental treaties and agreements.

For more details, see the guidance section on Legal Status.

1.2.2 The project operator shall hold evidence of the necessary use rights, including carbon rights and/or ownership of the project area.

The project proponents should be able to demonstrate they have the necessary rights to carbon and land-use to implement the project, and transact Natural Capital Credits (NCCs). Documents regarding the project area should be reviewed by legal advisors and a summary statement of this review should be presented in the Project Design Document.

It is also important to note that the project proponents should hold the necessary legal rights to perform the project activities for the entire crediting period.

For more information, see the guidance section on Legal Status.

1.3 Additionality

1.3.1 The project shall demonstrate additionality relative to existing policies.

Project activities should be considered additional if they are taking place as a consequence of the existence of the NFS or the possibility of obtaining carbon finance, and would not have taken place in its absence.  In cases where forests are officially protected or subject to protective regulations additionality may be demonstrated by showing that forests are inadequately protected and at risk of deforestation and/or degradation.

For more information, see the guidance section on Additionality.

1.3.2 Any restoration activities that are legal requirements shall not be eligible for crediting.

In the case of forest restoration activities, the project developer and verifier should confirm that these are not being undertaken to fulfil a legal requirement.

For more information, see the guidance section on Additionality.

1.4 Timescale

1.4.1 The project period shall be for a minimum period of 20 years.

There is no upper limit on the duration of projects, however it is unusual for forest conservation projects to make commitments beyond a 100 year period.

2 Governance, Social and Biodiversity Impacts

2.1 Free, Prior and Informed Consent

2.1.1 The project shall obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the carbon rights holders and any communities living or having land use rights within the project area whose activities will be affected or constrained by the project. This shall be obtained prior to the date of validation and be reviewed no less frequently than every 10 years.

Projects should consider FPIC as a process rather than a one-time decision and projects should consider appropriate timeframes throughout the duration of the project for the review of any decisions or agreements to take account of any appropriate changes.

Consent should be obtained prior to the commencement of project activities. In adhering to the principles of FPIC project developers should consider the relevant social, cultural and environmental factors in the proposed project area.

For more information, see the guidance section on Governance and Social Impacts.

2.2 Benefit Mechanism

2.2.1 The project shall establish a mechanism to benefit local people and support the sustainable management of ecosystems.

The benefit mechanism should be designed in consultation with local communities and relevant organisations, including government bodies, as appropriate.

The Standard recognises that the design, implementation and governance of this mechanism will be specific to projects, and will reflect the eligibility of stakeholders within the project area to make claims regarding the scale, timing and type of benefits accrued. The Standard is flexible in allowing for different approaches that projects may take to a benefit mechanism. The development and operation of the benefit mechanism should reflect the needs, priorities and cultural circumstances of stakeholders, and should be managed effectively, efficiently and transparently.

For more information see the guidance section on Governance and Social Impacts.

2.3 Communication

2.3.1 The project shall establish and maintain regular channels of communication with stakeholders to allow exchange of information on the progress of the project.

The project should consider how to establish and maintain appropriate communication channels and methods to ensure that project stakeholders are made aware of, and have access to the project process. The communication channels should include appropriate mechanisms allowing for the exchange of project information and data, incorporate reporting on project progress, monitoring updates, and meetings to discuss satisfaction and hear grievances.

2.4 Dispute Resolution

2.4.1 The project shall establish and maintain mechanisms for dealing with complaints and concerns of stakeholders, including allowance for an independent arbitration process.

Projects should establish a mechanism that ensures that issues are aired openly and transparently and that there is a go-to procedure, before communication becomes difficult or breaks down. Project level grievance mechanisms offer an alternative to dispute resolution processes but should include the possibility of independent arbitration, and recourse to legal or administrative remedies if negotiations do break down. The project should ensure that stakeholders are made aware of and have access to the process.

For more information, see the guidance section on Dispute Resolution.

2.5 Biodiversity Maintenance

2.5.1 The project shall take appropriate measures to maintain and enhance existing biodiversity.

The Natural Forest Standard is designed to be used in large areas of natural forest which are at risk from deforestation.  Because these forests are likely to have high ecological significance, the biodiversity management element of the project is vital in ensuring the project has a positive impact, and the project should ensure that there is ‘no net loss of biodiversity’ arising from the project’s existence in comparison with a baseline situation without the project.

The biodiversity section of the management plan should be consistent with good practice for the project region, and shall be informed by an understanding of the ecosystems and species present within and around the project area, and the likely causes of biodiversity loss.

For more information, see the guidance section on Biodiversity Impacts.

3. Project Management, Monitoring and Reporting

3.1 Project Management Plan

3.1.1 The project shall develop and maintain a management plan describing the measures to be taken to reduce deforestation and degradation of natural forests, and/or to restore degraded forests within the project area. The plan shall include appropriate leakage mitigation measures, and measures planned to benefit biodiversity and local communities.

Project developers should develop a management plan which is a key document that provides up to date information on how the project will address the identified threats to forest carbon and biodiversity and, where appropriate, recover carbon stocks and biodiversity through restoration activities.

The management plan should be a ‘living document’, aligned with the Project Design Document but kept up to date to reflect any changes that may be required, and lessons learned in the course of the project.

For more information, see the guidance section on Project Management.

3.2 Project Monitoring System

3.2.1 Projects shall establish and maintain a monitoring system describing the activities to be undertaken to monitor carbon stocks, the impacts on local communities and biodiversity.

A Project Monitoring System should be used to maintain records of all relevant conservation and restoration activities, observations and measurements made to quantify the environmental impacts and progress with achieving social benefits. Project monitoring should be viewed as an integral part of good governance and effective management.

For more information, see the guidance section on Project Monitoring System.

3.3 Project Reporting

3.3.1 The project shall publish clear and accessible annual reports describing the progress of the project, the credits issued and sold, and resources deployed into the project.

The annual report recommended format can be downloaded from the templates section.

4. Quantification of Carbon Benefits

4.1 Factors, Assumptions and Data

4.1.1 All factors and assumptions used to describe carbon stocks and supporting evidence for baseline emissions and additionality shall be transparently reported.

Methodologies should be based on transparent and relevant evidence and assumptions, and should take account of best available evidence.

For more information, see guidance section on Methodologies for Quantification of Carbon Benefits.

4.1.2 All data used to quantify carbon benefits shall be recorded electronically, with details of time, location, method and identity of the data provider.

To maintain a transparent account of the evidence and assumptions used throughout the quantification methods, dates, locations and identities of people undertaking measurements and estimates should be recorded electronically.

4.2 Carbon Pools

4.2.1 The carbon stored in above-ground tree biomass at the start of the project shall be quantified using internationally recognised GHG inventory methods or approaches.

Quantification of carbon stocks may be carried out using Approved Tier 1 or 2 Maps, or Tier 3 Inventory methods, combined with remote sensing.

For more information, see the guidance section Tiers of Forest Carbon Data.

4.2.2 Carbon in a) Above-ground non-tree biomass; b) Below-ground biomass; c) Dead wood; d) Soil organic carbon; and e) forest products shall be quantified where project activities are likely to reduce these stocks.

Quantification of carbon stocks may be carried out using Approved Tier 1 or 2 Maps, or Tier 3 Inventory methods, combined with remote sensing.

For more information, see the guidance section Tiers of Forest Carbon Data.

4.3 Baseline Assessment

4.3.1 The project shall use only approved models and methods to provide a credible baseline scenario that describes a conservative estimate of emissions from deforestation and degradation in the absence of project activities.

A risk-based approach is recommended to provide baseline emissions scenarios, such as the ACEU method included in approved NFS methodology AM001.1b. The value used for the baseline is therefore not a predicted value but a conservative estimate to apply to forests with a given combination of risk factors.

For more information, see the guidance section Baseline Assessment.

4.3.2 The project baseline and underlying assumptions shall be reviewed every 5 years.

Projects are required to use approved methods to provide a credible, conservative, baseline scenario of emissions from deforestation and degradation in the absence of the project activities.

A risk-based approach to provide baseline emissions scenarios is recommended.

For more information, see the guidance section Baseline Assessment.

4.4 Leakage

4.4.1 Potential sources of leakage from local activity shifting resulting from project activities, including the mechanism for distribution of benefits, shall be assessed, and appropriate actions taken to minimise leakage shall be implemented.

A leakage zone of 10 km from the boundaries of the project area is recommended. The NFS does not require projects to estimate the potential impacts of project activities on national or international markets.

When indicators of leakage are found within the identified leakage buffer zone, they should be investigated and, if possible, a negotiation to reduce or minimise these activities should occur. The project managers should, where possible, reduce leakage through improved project management and the encouragement of sustainable economic activities within the project area.

For more information, see the guidance section on Leakage.

4.5 Non-Permanence Risk

4.5.1 The project shall hold a reserve of Natural Capital Credits in a buffer account sufficient to cover risks of non-permanence, as determined by the NFS Risk Panel.

Projects should be designed and implemented to promote permanent conservation of carbon stocks and biodiversity. The aim is to build resilient conservation areas that are well governed, locally supported and aligned to economic development.

See Permanence of Carbon Benefits for details on determining how many NCCs should be held in the risk buffer reserve stock.

For more information, see the guidance section on Permanence.

4.6 Quantification of Emission Reductions

4.6.1 The project shall use approved methods to quantify emission reductions from avoided deforestation and degradation, and carbon sequestration in areas under restoration, on an annual basis taking account of estimates for leakage, the risk of reversals and uncertainty.

Projects are required to quantify carbon benefits using approved methods. For further information, a current list of approved NFS methodologies can be found on the Methodology page.

5. Biodiversity Assessment

5.1 Normative Biodiversity Metric

5.1.1 The biodiversity rating assessment of the project shall be calculated using the Normative Biodiversity Metric.

To provide some consistency and comparability of biodiversity measures between projects, it is recommended a project uses the Normative Biodiversity Metric (NBM), in addition to any other methods that a project wishes to use.

The Normative Biodiversity Metric (NBM) (Jarrett 2011) is a practical method used to provide an assessment of the biodiversity value of any given area under ownership or management control. The NBM is similar to the concepts of habitat hectares (Parkes et al.) 2003 and mean species abundance (Alkemade 2009) which are also designed to provide quantified information on the biodiversity value of an area.

For more information, see the guidance section on Biodiversity Assessment.

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