Carbon Balanced Project Design Principles

World Land Trust’s 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 Climate, Community & 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 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. WLT’s Carbon Balanced projects 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 WLT’s Carbon Balanced projects involve working 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 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.

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