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Biodiversity credits: right from the start

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By Patricio Lombardi

· 7 min read

We must answer to the global environmental crisis. Indeed, we have the scientific knowledge to tackle it. All we need is political courage. More than a thousand professional science experts representing 195 countries who were brought together by the United Nations in an intergovernmental agency called the IPCC say the same: 

“There is no time to lose… We need to change the way we do things from the start. Delayed action increases the risks.”

Over the course of 2023, carbon markets were plunged into a crisis of significant scale, leaving a palpable impact in terms of falling prices as well as project volumes. This highlighted the need to rethink current carbon market programmes, with pricing schemes, the lack of robust regulation and the vulnerability of socio-environmental safeguards being key challenges. 

Last week President Emmanuel Macron published an op ed saying:

"Reform of the voluntary carbon market is essential. We need to create an international carbon and biodiversity exchange that will allow governmental and private actors to organize voluntary carbon credit swaps, based on sufficiently ambitious criteria to avoid greenwashing, and to remunerate local communities." 

And he’s right. In response to this crisis, it is imperative to work in a collaborative and coordinated manner on measures that promote integrity, transparency and quality of projects, which are essential to move towards a more sustainable and resilient future in the face of global climate challenges.

At the Environmental Markets Fairness Foundation, we are focused on contributing to capacity building, which is one of the mandates of the Paris Agreement, because we believe this is the fundamental basis for achieving fairness in carbon markets.

We are based on a holistic approach, which understands the interrelationship between the global environmental crisis, biodiversity loss and planetary health as part of an overall balance, understanding that damaging the health of our planet means damaging our own health.

We strongly believe that strengthening our collective capacities and encouraging conscious and proactive action is the roadmap to achieving climate justice. That is why we are committed to education and awareness raising. This means implementing Articles 11 and 12 of the Paris Agreement.

Also, to contribute to protecting planetary health, it is important to understand in the first place that environmental markets are the most developed tool so far to channel access to sustainable finance.

In the second place, it is essential to promote Nature-based Solutions (NbS), characterized by complex interventions due to their linkage with communities, but vital because they have the potential to mitigate 30% of global emissions.

Building bridges towards nature-positive impacts: biodiversity credits

In this environment, biocredits emerge as an integral solution. It is important to understand that action to protect biodiversity brings more benefits than addressing GHG mitigation alone. It not only ensures socio-environmental safeguards but also assumes greater recognition of the efforts of local communities, the undisputed guardians of 80% of the planet's biodiversity.

This learning led us, at the last Dubai COP, to organise the event “Catalyzing Nature-Positive Action Through Biodiversity Credits: A Holistic Approach From The Global South”, co-organised with Cercarbono, the international standard certifier based in Latin America.

We decided to present as a successful case the biodiversity credits of Savimbo, an American startup based in the Colombian Amazon. Its founding members belong to the communities where these projects are carried out, ensuring a governance structure with communities involved in the decision-making process from the beginning until the moment they receive their compensation.

Furthermore, we proposed a holistic approach necessary to analyse these issues, which is why we invited Hon. Emilce Cuda, Vatican envoy for Latin America, who, starting from a socio-environmental approach that puts people at the centre, urged all to respond to the moral call to take responsibility for the protection of our planet and ensure fair and equitable development with communities at the forefront of the protection of natural resources. This approach transcends and includes the 3 Abrahamic religions, recognising the need to join efforts at a global level to take care of our environment.

To complete this comprehensive vision, we had the commitment of the private sector, through the presence of José Luis Manzano, CEO of Integra Capital, a referent in emerging markets and renewable energies. The businessman stated that the natural capital of Latin America is the key to finding solutions to the global environmental crisis, but the success of these solutions is only possible if we do things right from the start.

This means leading all activities with social and environmental commitment and integrity. For this reason, he announced that his company will make an investment to explore the opportunities to implement biodiversity credits in the Atlantic Forest, which is, together with the Amazon, one of the five most threatened biomes on the planet, according to the United Nations.

2024 perspectives

We start 2024 with an encouraging sign in this regard, with the recent announcement by the World Economic Forum (WEF) of the launch of an innovative Biodiversity Credit Buyers' Club, which will not only strengthen confidence in this market scheme but also demonstrate that corporate investors are ready to direct finance to ecosystem health.

It is imperative to recognise that we are in a state of emergency, where our air, water and soil are degraded, directly impacting our health. If we really want to solve this crisis, we must first come clean on some key issues.

First, we need to address the current gap between the price per tonne of carbon being traded on the voluntary market, which is between 2-6 USD/tonne, and the real price it should have, with a floor of 75 USD/tonne.

This gap is unfair, according to an analysis by two Nobel laureates in economics convened by the World Bank, and it poses a significant challenge to effectively address sustainable solutions to the carbon emissions problem.

In the same vein, it is crucial to question the conclusions of reports by major international consulting firms and multilateral development banks, which currently claim that only 55% of the world's GDP depends on nature. 

The pandemic has acted as a catalyst, further revealing the vital interlinkage between economic activity and natural resources. This highlights the need to review and better understand the full extent of our dependence on nature in all areas of human activity.

Biodiversity functions as nature´s operating system. Without the crucial ecosystem services from the biomes of the Global South, our planet as we know it would come to an end. It's game over.

In this equation, the peoples of the Global South have much to contribute and educate us on the road to protecting the most important biomes, given that Latin America is home to 6 of the 11 most biodiverse countries on the planet. Using the tool of environmental markets with socio-environmental equity, the region can make an enormous contribution to protect and preserve primary forests, the main reservoirs of multi-diverse life.

It is for this reason that Colombia, ranked as the second most biodiverse country in the world, has been designated as host of the next Biodiversity Summit. This event is shaping up to be the ideal scenario to drive decisive negotiations on the implementation of the emerging Biocredit market. The CBD offers a unique opportunity to establish definitive agreements that can revolutionise biodiversity conservation globally.

From the Environmental Markets Fairness Foundation, we celebrate as a result of this last COP28 in Dubai, the official decision of the United Nations to build a joint agenda between the CBD on biodiversity and the COP on climate change. It aims to reflect the interrelationship between the two issues, assuming that it is not possible to address the climate change crisis without addressing the protection of biodiversity.

During 2024, we will actively participate in the next CBD16 in Cartagena, and the next COP29 in Azerbaijan and contribute to comprehensive solutions to the global environmental crisis. We will renew our commitment to capacity building in the terms of Articles 11 and 12 of the Paris Agreement to achieve governance structures that can have positive impacts on nature, placing fairness, local communities and biodiversity at the core of sustainability.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Patricio Lombardi is the Executive Director of the Environmental Markets Fairness Foundation, a strategic alliance forged between regions, governments and civil organizations from the Global South. Patricio was the first ever appointed climate minister in the Americas, as Secretary of Climate Change of Argentina.

Patricio is a confirmed keynote speaker at Terra Tuscany, the sustainability leaders offsite powered by illuminem.

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