Woodlands created to capture carbon must follow a set of principles enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol. Assurance that your carbon credits will deliver real environmental benefit comes only from strict adherence to those principles.The main two are 'additionality' and 'permanence'.
The most important principle of all is that you are able to demonstrate that, without the intervention of the carbon credit buyer, the carbon reduction or carbon capture activity could not have gone ahead. In the case of our woodland projects this means that, in each case, without one of our clients, the trees wouldn't be there.
The question of whether or not a proposed project can go ahead without some carbon investment is tested stringently. We consider financial barriers, legal barriers and 'behavioural' barriers, and we regularly reject projects that, we feel, do not demonstrate proper additionality.
As a final additionality test we present each project to a panel of professional members of the Institute of Chartered Foresters for independent review. The panel scrutinises all our assumptions and the landowner's financial projections, then, bringing their years of forestry knowledge, training and experience to bear, they will form an opinion as to whether or not the project under consideration would have proceeded without the intervention of Forest Carbon and its partner.
The reason this principle is so important is that if a carbon emitter invested in a carbon reduction project that was going ahead anyway (say for example a hydro power plant where the income from electricity generation alone was enough to make the project viable) then no additional benefit has accrued. In fact, environmental harm has been caused: emissions released but with no compensation beyond which was going to happen anyway.
If one chilly morning you make a 'green' decision to wear more woollies and turn off the heating then the CO2 emissions you've just avoided have been avoided forever. The official Kyoto term for this is 'permanently avoided'.
With Kyoto-standard forestry offsets the CO2 is not 'permanently avoided'. Instead, it is 'locked up permanently' - in the wood and soil of a forest that ultimately settles into a state of 'dynamic' equilibrium around a long term average carbon store. Kyoto's stringent regime for forestry carbon capture is designed to protect this method of sequestration against the risks that might arise from irresponsible practices or ecologically unsound schemes.
Our schemes follow Kyoto rules. As 'permanent reservoirs' the trees are (1) self-regenerating and managed to ensure the permanent presence of the right number of trees on the site; (2) replanted if lost for any reason - a legal requirement, written into our contracts. Lastly, our extremely conservative carbon calculation method provides a generous safety margin that mitigates against potential set-back such as slower-than-expected growth or disease.