Challenges of certification and the power of remote sensing

One of the key challenges in the carbon projects is the often expensive and complicated certification process. In this context, the following 5 parameters must be elaborated from every carbon project developer:

Baseline: This is the scenario of what would happen, if the project activity would not have been developed, also referred to as business-as-usual. The later occurring carbon accounting always needs a baseline to compare to and then calculate emissions reductions or removals.

Additionally: Here the project developer has to prove that his activities are additional to the current reality, meaning emission removals or reductions would not have happened without the project. 

Permanence: For all carbon removal activity permanence must be proven, meaning that the carbon removed from the atmosphere will be stored with out being released for a significant amount of time.

Carbon Accounting: These calculations define the amount of carbon emissions which will be removed or reduced throughout a project. Here usually modeling in combination with analysis on site is used.

MRV: Monitoring, Reporting and Verification is the process of controlling the results from the Carbon Accounting. Projekt Developers have to implement regular monitoring intervals. The monitoring results are then used to confirm or dismiss the issued carbon credits.  

All renowned certification bodies do work with this basic framework, which was developed already by the UN during the rule making for the Kyoto Protocol. This shows that the basic framework is quite old already. Looking at many existing methodologies, they tend to be very labor intensive but still relatively low in precision. Due to the use of predictive modeling, they lead to quite a discrepancy between reality and paper. Just as we are not perfect, probably carbon certification methodologies won’t be either and it’s a fair question to ask if we will ever be able to measure the captured carbon down to the gram. It’s also a fair question to ask if it is that where we should be investing all our energy in instead of primarily focussing on actually restoring ecosystems and communities. However, there is much happening in the market to increase transparency and make certification (especially the MRV part) more accessible to a wider range of land managers.

The key to improve accuracy for all parties involved in the carbon market are sensors measuring soil carbon, biomass growth, gas fluxes, biodiversity, etc. In recent times a good number of startups have started with the mission to do exactly that. By using satellites, drones or airplanes and verifying the results through samples on ground, remote sensing already generates great results. Using such tools also allows to significantly reduce the costs for experts in the field this way allowing for a higher frequency of measurements, leading to more solid feedback about the carbon stored through project activities. Some players in the market which we definitely recommend to check out are Space4Good, Pachama and Seqana. Through their innovative approaches they make the lives of project developers like us a lot easier and allow pivoting quickly. Rome sensing and GIS can also help to create more solid baselines by comparing historic land use data can help avoid the creation of fake narratives. We see that this development one day will save certification efforts and lead to a sensor- and fact-based calculation of actually removed carbon. Woonderlands takes part in the development of these leaner, more transparent ways of certifying carbon removals.  

If you are interested in finding out more about the way Woonderlands approaches certification and how your project can profit from modern sensing technology, get in touch.

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