The NFS provides a predictable and streamlined framework for bringing JREDD projects through all the stages from initial concept to validation and credit issuance

By providing a clear set of rules, guidance and methods, and by focusing solely on the protection and restoration of natural forests, the NFS avoids much of the complexity associated with standards where each project involves bespoke methodological work, leading to long and complex validation and verification processes.

The use of standardised, independently approved, geospatial data sources across forest regions, both for the setting of reference levels and for monitoring forest changes enables project developers in areas where approved datasets are available to plan with greater certainty.

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Development Stages for NFS Projects

This section describes the recommended process for projects engaging with the Natural Forest Standard, from submission of the Project Idea Note through to Natural Capital Credit (NCC) Issuance.

Stage 1: Project Idea Note

The initial stage of registering a project with the Natural Forest Standard is to submit a Project Idea Note (PIN). This is a short document that provides a brief summary of the intended project and identifies and determines the main features and objectives of the project, the parties involved and the proposed project activities. The purpose of submitting a PIN is to confirm that the project is suitable for the Natural Forest Standard, that it meets the eligibility criteria of the standard and that the aims and activities of the project are feasible.  A PIN template is available on the NFS website.

PIN documents should be submitted to the NFS Secretariat, who will carry out a desk-based review based on the information provided in the PIN document.  The review will provide feedback to the Project Developer on the eligibility of the project for the Natural Forest Standard.  Once accepted, a PIN will be listed in the Project Index section of the NFS website.

Stage 2: Project Design Document

The next stage is the submission of a Project Design Document (PDD).  A PDD is a detailed description of the proposed project explaining how it has been designed, how it will be implemented and how the project conforms to the Natural Forest Standard.

The PDD shall include all appropriate, relevant and required data, documentation and materials necessary for the validation of the proposed project against the Natural Forest Standard requirements, including a management plan and methods for quantifying and monitoring the proposed project.    The PDD shall be prepared in a way that facilitates the validation assessment; there is not a mandatory format however a suggested PDD template is available on the NFS website.

A fully completed PDD should be submitted to the NFS Secretariat, which should be made publically available in an accessible form, at least 30 days prior to the completion of validation.

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Stage 3: Engagement of the Validation/Verification Body (VVB)

The project proponent shall select an appropriate independent third-party validation/verification organisation to carry out the validation/verification process.  Validation/verification may be undertaken by any VVB that is accredited by a national accreditation body and eligible to validate/verify projects under ISO 14064.  Once the VVB has been appointed, the PDD, as well as any other appropriate documentation shall be submitted to the VVB for commencement of validation/verification.

Stage 4: Validation

Projects shall be validated to determine that the project design conforms to the Natural Forest Standard requirements.  Validation shall be carried out by an independent third-party validation/verification body (VVB) and shall assess whether the project conforms to the Natural Forest Standard requirements. The validation shall be carried out to a limited level of assurance according to the ISO 14064-3, by an organisation accredited by a national accreditation body to validate projects under ISO 14064-3.

The objective of the independent third party validation process is to ensure that the proposed project meets the requirements set out by the Natural Forest Standard.  The validator shall confirm that the project design document and supporting documentation meet the relevant criteria.

The validation process shall result in a final validation report being produced, describing the findings related to the conformance of the project and identifying any non-conformities or clarification requests, together with a final validation statement confirming the outcome of the validation.

Stage 5: Registration

Upon the finalised validation report and statement being submitted and accepted by the Governance Board and Technical Panel, the project shall be registered as active by the NFS Secretariat on the NFS Project Index.

Stage 6: Verification

Project implementation shall be verified by an independent third-party verification organisation according to the validated PDD and the criteria outlined in the Natural Forest Standard requirements and NFS approved methodology.  Project proponents shall produce a Project Implementation Report (PIR) that describes the project and monitoring activities that have been implemented in the project area and the outcomes of such activities.  The PIR shall also include the quantification of carbon benefits, the biodiversity rating, social impact information and general progress of the project since the start of the project and over the current implementation period.

Project proponents shall select an appropriate independent third-party VVB to undertake the verification process, as per the process for validation, set out in Stage 3.  The same VVB may be engaged for verification that carried out validation, or it can be carried out by an alternative independent third-party organisation that is appropriately accredited.

Once the VVB has been appointed, the PIR, as well as any other appropriate documentation shall be submitted to the VVB for commencement of verification.

The assertion of carbon benefits shall be independently verified to a reasonable level of assurance, according to ISO 14064-3 by an organisation accredited by a national accreditation body to verify projects under ISO 14064-3, prior to credit issuance.  Initial verification shall involve a site visit to the project area and subsequent verification audits shall involve a site visit to the project area at intervals no greater than 5 years.  Periodic verification of carbon assertions shall be carried out as a desk-based audit, prior to credit issuance.  A separate guidance document is available outlining the expectations and requirements of the periodic verification process.

Major discrepancies identified by the verifier shall be addressed prior to credit issuance.  Minor discrepancies identified by the verifier shall be addressed within a timescale agreed with the verifier. Verifiers shall have discretion to raise minor discrepancies to the status of major discrepancies if they are not adequately addressed within the agreed time frame.

The verification process shall result in a verification report and statement which should confirm that the PDD, PIR and internal Management Plan meet the requirements of the NFS and should confirm the carbon assertions of the quantification period.

Stage 7:  Credit Issuance

Following the submission of the final verification report and statement, and subsequent acceptance by the ECO NFS Secretariat, the corresponding number of Natural Capital Credits shall be issued  to the project’s account on the NFS Registry within 30 days of completion of verification.  Credit issuance is dependent on the Project Implementation Report being submitted for the time frame corresponding to the quantification period(s). To view the Credit Issuance Process document, click here.

A fixed 10% risk buffer contribution shall be deducted from the total Natural Capital Credits issued to a project for the initial crediting period.  The risk buffer contribution shall be retained and maintained in a reserve account on the NFS Registry.  This contribution is subject to increase during this period if deemed appropriate by the independent Risk Panel, through carrying out their annual review process.

Following the initial contribution of 10% in Year 1, all subsequent Risk Buffer contributions from Year 2 onwards shall be subject to review by the NFS Risk Panel, and based on the project performance over time. To view the Risk Buffer Reserve Policy click here.

Stage 8: Annual Reporting

Active NFS projects shall publish clear and accessible annual reports quantifying the carbon benefits and biodiversity rating and describing monitoring and implementation activities, social impacts and general progress of the project.  Annual reports should describe the progression that a project has made while also demonstrating that the project remains active.  All active NFS projects must submit annual reports to the NFS Secretariat no later than 12 months after the reporting period ends.  Annual project reports shall be made publically available on the NFS Project Index.

The NFS Guidance for Annual Reporting document provides further details regarding the submission requirements for project reporting and is available on the NFS website.  A recommended Annual Report template is also available to download from the NFS website.

Disclosure of Project Stage

The NFS will clearly indicate the stage each project has reached within the Project Index on the Natural Forest Standard website.