The Global Conservation Standard Land-use based Conservation Credits for the Voluntary Markets
As different from all other carbon standards, the Global Conservation Standard is based on carbon stocks, not flows. It is setting a structured and transparent approach to the conservation of natural areas worldwide. Using a simple methodology, it is designed to extract value from forestry projects quickly and efficiently. These credits can come to market quicker, stop deforestation sooner and therefore have the impact that the carbon markets were created for....now! GCS also helps conserve other natural areas, like non-forest peat swamps or grassland, which may also contain high carbon stocks and be a home to a large biodiversity.
The Global Conservation Standard gives landowners a source of income for conserving their natural patrimony. Buyers of GCS credits take over stewardship for the vegetation and its environmental services provided local livelihoods and mankind.
The GCS Conservation Carbon Units (CCU) which accrue to the government or stakeholder are available in the market for sale at the predetermined price of the market for that day. The resulting carbon revenues create a considerable capital pool the control of which is critical to ensure the programme meets its aims and goals. This is dealt with as below:
The landowner receives 20% of the gross carbon revenues. This serves to cover the cost of governmental or stakeholder administration as well as partial compensation for opportunity costs of the land. 40% of revenues are dedicated to project and conservation management, and 40% are put into a Stakeholder Fund.
This is achieved in conjunction with the landowner in an agreed format. This creates a capital pool which is both renewed annually and utilized commercially to create additional revenues be they cash or Conservation Carbon Units. These additional revenues are realized through the implementation of microfinance programs, sustainable lumber programmes and energy crop programmes including outreach and JV or owner plantations. This all works to generate financial and commercial impetus as well as reducing considerably the commodity pressure on the forests.
The GCS Technical Panel includes eight renown experts in the four scopes of (1) economics and policies of global change, (2) Socio-economics and development, (3) Monitoring of environmental services, and (4) Fund-raisingand finance for environmental assets.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why another carbon standard? GCS is the first standard that accounts for existing, non-fictional terrestrial carbon. It does not require a baseline against which to be measured. The Conservation Credit Units (CCUs) are determined in metric tons of CO2, yet they do not compensate or offset any emissions in other places. Thus, the GCS produces a different type of asset, strictly for the voluntary market. Stocks are monitored and verified annually, and payments will be made on an annual basis too. A major part of the receipts will be realized upfront, based upon conservative estimates.
Does the GCS compete with other land-use related standards like CCB or VCS? No, being radically different in nature, GCS only sponsors conservation areas that are not under any commercial land use. However, GCS-protected areas may overlap with areas under a voluntary or compulsory carbon offset regime. GCS does not compete with other standards rather it complements and provides incentives for proactive forest management. GCS also opens the doors to a multi-tiered “credit” where it may be possible to include income sources from carbon offsets, payments for water and biodiversity services, nutrient markets, among others, to increase the monetary value of the forest.
Is the GCS a forest standard? The GCS consortium understands conservation as to include all areas not under extractive use; be they forested or not. Under carbon stock aspects, the highest potential can be found in forests and on peat swamps. Over time however, GCS will be developed so as to accommodate other ecosystem services like nutrient and water management and biodiversity.
Are GCS projects additional? In the traditional sense, “carbon additionality” does not apply. GCS provides financial incentives for the voluntary conservation of forest resources, which under current incentives structures is not a profitable activity. As a result, additionality is only a concern of targeting limited funding, and it is expected that the CCU prices will vary as a function of land pressure on the respective area. As a safeguard against protecting the already protected, GCS will give priority to areas that are surrounded by other land uses and integrate those into project design.
Is there a risk of carbon leakage? Local negative leakage effects will be identified and eventually accounted for by monitoring an area significantly larger than the pure Conservation Area. National or global market leakage can be encountered by putting threatened areas under Conservation Agreement worldwide. This will be facilitated by simple procedures and worldwide recognition of the GCS.
Can conservation under GCS lead to double-counting? CCUs will be held in an independently audited and publicly verifiable registry, where the Conservation Area and their respective credits can easily be identified and monitored online in real time. This makes sure that any CCUs will not be sold more than once.
Will conservation under GCS inhibit traditional land uses? It will only do so, in case these are unsustainable for the long-term conservation of the area.
Will GCS conservation lead to a loss in sovereignty of the host countries? No, the Conservation Agreement is a legal easement on the area, but it does not transfer ownership. It will help the countries to effectively implement conservation areas.
Why should investors buy conservation credits? GCS is currently contracting millions of hectares for conservation worldwide. CCU buyers know that their money invested will lead to immediate and well-documented effects to ensure “carbon security” through voluntary gazettment of conservation areas. An environmental and socially acceptable asset is an ideal instrument for Corporate Social Responsibility.
When does a conservation project start? A GCS project starts at signature of the Conservation Agreement. The GCS Technical Panel will approve a conservative CCU calculation, and the cash-flow starts immediately.
How do payments work? Payments are based on the volume of carbon within a project area and project status. In year 1, the project undergoes an initial valuation where after a preliminary assessment of the volume of carbon is determined, CCF will make an upfront payment. The residual payment will be paid upon full compliance and registration to the GCS. Year 2 onwards: Once registered with the GCS, project verification will occur annually.
What happens after the project ends? Minimum project duration is 30 years, with possible extension. It is expected however that after this time, local economic development and receipts from the non-destructive use of the Conservation Area will be able to sustain it.
Who guarantees that GCS rules are followed? There are checks and balances on both sides to make sure that GCS rules and principles are followed. GCS is organized in two branches, the GCS Administration (CCF) and the GCS Oversight Organization (biocarbon consult), as represented in Figure 1 below. The GCS Oversight Organization is responsible for the continuous adaptation and improvement of the Standard and for the approval of new methodologies. Additionally, independent third-party validation and verification (VV) is continually taking place.