1. A focus on natural forests

This standard focuses on natural forest and non-commercial forest management.  The standard enables projects that effectively conserve or restore natural forests at risk of degradation to be issued with Natural Capital Credits (NCCs), denominated in tonnes CO2e of avoided GHG emissions and rated in terms of biodiversity.

“It is our hope that a standard focused on the conservation and restoration of natural forests will provide greater resources for reducing deforestation and degradation in areas of global ecological significance.”

2. Integration of Social, Biodiversity and Carbon Values

The conservation and restoration of natural forests provides vital biodiversity and social benefits which should be reflected in the value that is attributed to carbon certificates from natural forests. At present the credits issued by standards such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the America Carbon Registry (ACR), cover a range of emission reducing activities that do not adequately reflect this value. One of the aims of the Natural Forest Standard is to give attention to natural forests and reflect this special value in the market. The standard incorporates a biodiversity metric to quantify the biodiversity value associated with Natural Capital Credits.

3. Focus on publicly owned forest areas

The NFS addresses situations that are not fully represented in other standards. For instance, whilst the Plan Vivo Standard deals effectively with lands owned or managed by smallholder farmers and communities and the CarbonFix Standard applies to small and medium scale plantations, these standards do not apply to large parts of the natural forest estate owned or controlled by public bodies, ranging from municipalities to state-owned concessions. The Natural Forest Standard will focus on extensive areas of public and state owned forests that are not adequately protected or managed.  The Natural Forest Standard has strong social and governance requirements including Free Prior and Informed Consent to address potential risks to community access and use rights within these forest areas.

4. Exclusion of commercial logging activities

To address the risk that emission reduction certificates may be used to subsidise conventional commercial logging operations the NFS excludes commercial timber extraction operations from generating credits. The VCS and ACR, which do not exclude commercial timber extraction, use “additionality tests” designed to assess the threshold at which an emission reduction project goes beyond what is considered commercially viable within the local context. These tests are necessarily complicated and add a considerable burden to project validation. While it may be possible to have genuine emission reductions and additional carbon sequestration from commercial timber extraction, the NFS avoids the complexity of commercial additionality tests by excluding all commercial logging.

5. Unified, risk-based performance benchmark to provide baselines

One of the most challenging and costly aspects of quantifying the carbon benefits associated with avoiding deforestation and degradation through planned project activities is the establishment of a baseline – representing the emissions that are likely to occur in the absence of the project. There have been numerous methods and approaches proposed for baseline setting, most of which are either highly data intensive or involve complex predictive models. The VCS is structured to allow different models to be used in different projects. While this arrangement may suit certain project developers, it makes project approval, systematic learning and gradual improvement more difficult. The NFS provides a standardised performance benchmark approach to baselines for activities avoiding deforestation and degradation, with performance baselines based on regional, national and global risk modelling; this approach will also help to link projects and national REDD+ baselines. The NFS is therefore focused on building on the body of knowledge and data relating to forest carbon at risk to make consistent and comparable risk map products available across all NFS projects.

6. Suitable for medium and large scale projects

The minimum size of NFS projects will be 20,000 hectares. This is because the NFS risk-based approach uses a statistical sampling basis, and project sizes below 20,000 ha will be insufficient to generate meaningful results.

7. Transparent and efficient processing of projects

The functionality of the Natural Forest Standard optimises the time requirements of bringing projects from initial implementation to credit issuance in the most responsive, efficient timescale possible, whilst also keeping the integrity and transparency that are essential criteria to the credibility of the Standard.  The ECO NFS is unique in its design as it has the project-developers needs in mind, whilst incorporating the integrity of stringent eligibility criteria with efficient third party validation and verification processes.

The NFS and ISO 14064 & 14065

The NFS has been designed to be compatible with the framework provided for project level quantification, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions or removal enhancements provided by ISO 14064 Part 2, and uses ISO 14064 Part 3 Specification with guidance for the validation and verification of greenhouse gas assertions.

The NFS applies the ISO principles of relevance, completeness, consistency, accuracy, transparency and conservativeness and provides specific requirements, definitions and guidance in relation to the conservation and restoration of natural forests.

Validation and Verification Bodies shall carry out their duties under conformation to both ISO14064-3 and ISO14065.

Natural Capital

Natural Capital is the collective term for Earth’s natural assets and the Ecosystem Services resulting from them, which make human life possible (Natural Capital Declaration, 2012). Ecosystem Services which result from Natural Capital form the foundation for all human economic activity including food, water and energy.  The value of Natural Capital is becoming increasingly recognised as being critical to economic success and sustainability. Many policy makers and organizations are now focusing on how value can be accurately attributed to Natural Capital and linked to economic policies.

Projects that are successfully verified under the Natural Forest Standard are issued with Natural Capital Credits (NCCs).  NCCs are unique to Natural Forest Standard projects, like other carbon credits NCCs are denominated in tonnes CO2e of avoided GHG emissions.  All NCCs are also rated in terms of biodiversity. Biodiversity is key component of Natural Capital and finding effective ways of protecting it are essential. The use of the Normative Biodiversity Metric is unique to the Natural Forest Standard and offers project developers a solid methodology to ensure no net loss of biodiversity within their project areas.

The Natural Forest Standard aims to conserve and restore natural forests through actions that benefit local communities and indigenous people. In addition to avoiding emissions the NFS offers a framework for the protection of a range of other ecosystem services.  It is essential that projects do not have negative impacts on people living within project areas or on those that have land use rights, and that the needs, rights and interests of these people are recognised by the project developments. By protecting the rights of local people and using their skills and knowledge to enhance Natural Capital, the Natural Forest Standard represents a strong framework for its protection.

The Natural Forest Standard integrates all of the components that are vital in protecting Natural Capital. Carbon, Biodiversity and Social benefits are accounted for under the standard making it a holistic approach to the conservation of Natural Capital.

Please see our papers below for more information on Natural Capital and the Natural Forest Standard.