The WLT Carbon Balanced offset projects are carefully selected to maximise biodiversity benefits and designed to satisfy stringent international standards:
Outstanding for wildlife, and critically threatened
WLT is focused on saving and restoring sites of globally outstanding wildlife value. We follow clearly defined criteria in selecting sites at which we work. Within the wide portfolio of wildlife sites where WLT works, we locate our Carbon Balanced project areas at endangered sites that are both rich in critically threatened wildlife and risk releasing significant levels of CO2 through clearance.
In order for activities to genuinely offset unavoidable emissions from elsewhere, they must either safeguard a site that would otherwise be lost imminently, or enable habitat recovery that would not otherwise take place.
Working in partnership with local conservation organisations
The WLT does not own land overseas itself. Rather, it has formed partnerships with well established, stable conservation organisations operating at each project site.
The Carbon Balanced activities at each site are managed through a collaboration between the WLT and our local conservation partner.
Local communities are closely involved at each site, often participating in planting trees, wardening, collecting seeds and developing and managing nurseries at which native plant material is grown. WLT Carbon Balanced thus offers ‘value-added’ offsets with the full package delivered in the standard £15 offset price.
Our approach to habitat protection and restoration
The WLT delivers Carbon Balanced offsets through:
- Avoided deforestation – protecting standing forest under imminent threat of clearance, so preventing the release of its stored carbon.
- Rehabilitating degraded forest – through protection, usually from grazing livestock and wood-cutting, to allow the forest to recover and in so doing soak up CO2.
- Reforestation – planting native trees on cleared land adjacent to existing forest patches, to join them up or extend them, thus again soaking up CO2 and improving the survival prospects of endangered species.
- Assisted natural regeneration – allowing regeneration by natural succession, usually by excluding grazing livestock and controlling fire. Carbon is locked up as vegetation grows. The process may be accelerated by enrichment planting to accelerate re-colonisation of forest species that migh otherwise fail to appear.
A combination of all four approaches is often used on a given land parcel. Progress at each project sites is closely monitored, with regular updates on the WLT website and in WLT News.
Offsets are voluntary
WLT Carbon Balanced offsets are voluntary and cannot, at the time of writing, be assigned to reductions required to comply with statutory emissions reduction rules.
We will seek formal certification of all Carbon Balanced offset projects by the CCBA in due course. Pending formal certification, companies cannot use these offsets in support of claims of ‘carbon neutrality’. Carbon neutrality would be achieved when the organisation has a net carbon footprint of zero. The three steps entailed in Carbon Balancing at the WLT cannot achieve this in themselves, although they will make a significant contribution towards this goal.
In order to clarify how the term carbon neutral can meaningfully and honestly be used, the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change has introduced a code of guidance on carbon neutrality. According to this document:
"Carbon neutral means that – through a transparent process of calculating emissions, reducing those emissions and offsetting residual emissions – net carbon emissions equal zero"
Emphasis is placed on the necessity for a thorough, well-documented and fully disclosed review of an organisation’s emissions, and the process by which it reduces those emissions. Offsetting is seen as a final step, used only for any unavoidable emissions.
This is very much in line with the approach that WLT Carbon Balanced companies take. At the present time, however, this guidance restricts organisations wishing to claim ‘carbon neutral’ status to the use of fully certified offsets.
Consequently, and recognising the role of the DECC in establishing a benchmark for declarations of carbon neutrality, the WLT asks organisations to refrain from making claims of carbon neutrality in association with Carbon Balanced offsets.
Carbon balanced companies receive a certificate to acknowledge their support. They can use the Carbon Balanced logo in conjunction with marketing materials. As a charity, WLT’s most valuable assets are its reputation and the loyalty of its supporters. Thus we are very careful in carrying out strict due diligence checks on all prospective carbon balanced companies. By remaining prudent, transparent and accountable in all its actions, WLT continues to be one of the most credible providers in the voluntary offset market.
World Land Trust Carbon Balanced projects use internationally-recognised standards of project design to ensure they are effective at protecting biodiversity and carbon, and bring benefits to local people. The most appropriate design standard to apply to Carbon Balanced projects is that developed by the Communities, Carbon and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA). We aim to apply CCBA project design guidance to all Carbon Balanced projects but, in order to allow for the testing of new ideas and to maximise cost-effectiveness, we have not sought formal CCBA certification. However, with the CCBA now established as a global certification leader, we will aim to secure certification by CCBA in due course.
Below, we outline the key aspects of project design applied to WLT Carbon Balanced projects.
The core mission of the WLT and our partners is to secure the long-term protection of critically threatened habitats and the species they support. All WLT Carbon Balanced project sites are of outstanding importance for biodiversity. It is fortuitous that many of the world’s most important wildlife habitats, notably tropical forests, also contain vast quantities of carbon in their vegetation and soils. Businesses and individuals offsetting their unavoidable emissions through the WLT Carbon Balanced programme are therefore making a substantial contribution to wildlife conservation.
Project area baseline scenario
The project area ‘baseline scenario’ describes what would happen at the site were it not for the WLT Carbon Balanced project. WLT Carbon Balanced projects are designed to secure the protection of forests that are imminently threatened with destruction, thereby protecting forest biodiversity and stored carbon, and often also absorbing additional carbon through forest regeneration.
- Because the site in question is usually an imminently threatened forest, the baseline scenario is typically that it will be destroyed, its carbon released into the atmosphere, and its biodiversity lost.
- Where we undertake forest regeneration, the baseline scenario is that the site in question would fail to regenerate due to unfavourable land-uses, and thus atmospheric carbon would not be absorbed.
It is essential to demonstrate that the proposed activities are additional to what would have happened in the absence of the project. In this way, the funds used will achieve genuine carbon offsets. For example, if an area of pasture is allowed to naturally regenerate by excluding livestock, then this is a genuine example of an offset; conversely, if livestock are not excluded, no regeneration (and carbon sequestration) would take place (i.e. the baseline scenario). Similarly, if an area of forest that is soon to be felled is purchased and safeguarded through the Carbon Balanced programme, additionality can be clearly demonstrated. An example of a non-additional action would be where pasture land was being abandoned – the land would revert to woodland regardless of the project, which would therefore not be instrumental in sequestering the carbon.
If the work one does to safeguard a site simply shifts pressure somewhere else, then no net benefit has been achieved. For example, acquiring a forest site from an owner wishing to log that site will fail to safeguard carbon if the owner simply destroys an alternative forest site. This risk is called leakage and it is essential that it is avoided for a project to genuinely achieve carbon offsetting. Carbon Balanced projects at the WLT carefully assess the risk of leakage and take appropriate steps to avoid it.
There is little point protecting or restoring habitats for a limited period only. All Carbon Balanced projects at the WLT work with partners to safeguard projects sites in perpetuity. This is achieved by selecting sites that can be incorporated in existing, well-established nature reserves, where the capacity exists to guarantee their long-term management.
Monitoring, Reporting and Verification
It is vital that projects sites are closely monitored and results of actions reported and subject to independent verification. WLT Carbon Balanced projects are delivered on the ground by in-country wildlife conservation organisations. Binding agreements ensure that partners regularly report progress to WLT, and disbursal of funds is conditional upon verification of carbon, biodiversity and community benefits by the WLT.
All the WLT Carbon Balanced project sites are important for people. Some have people living within them and all are valued by nearby local communities. Every site delivers a broad range of Ecosystem Services – notably of course carbon storage and sequestration – that are vital to people locally and often world-wide. Many sites have infrastructure, such as visitor lodges and centres, that enable people from all around the world to discover their wildlife value and the way the site is addressing global climate change.
A Carbon Balanced offset produced by World Land Trust costs £15 per tonne CO2. This covers all project requirements, including any or all of the following:
- Land purchase for permanent incorporation in a nature reserve
- Purchase of seedlings from local, often family-run, nurseries
- Land preparation, planting and maintenance costs
- Other silvicultural work
- Exclusion of livestock
- Forest protection, including equipment and infrastructure
- Field staff and training
- Monitoring, combined with education and research programmes
- Project administration costs for the local partner organisation
This work is maintained through the project life-time and beyond, each project site being given over to permanent conservation management. Actual costs vary from place to place and the £15 price is an average, used for supporters, individual or corporate, sequestering up to 5,000 tCO2 p.a. Initiatives designed to meet the needs of larger-scale corporates are custom-designed and may carry lower prices per offset due to savings in scale. World Land Trust selects sites according to their biodiversity conservation importance, not cheapness of offsets, and the price therefore allows it to include initiatives in challenging areas with high project costs, as well as ‘easier’ targets.
The World Land Trust is a non-profit organisation and any difference between offsets income and expenditure is simply reinvested in more project work, usually used for the protection of standing forest. It reserves 15% of the offset price for its own administration, but keeps these costs to a minimum. Again, any excess at the end of the year is reinvested in actions meeting the WLT conservation mission.