NEW YORK, November 28, 2023 -- The following statement was issued today by the Wildlife Conservation Society:

Second only to reducing fossil fuel consumption, protection of carbon stocks in natural forests and other ecosystems represents the most viable strategy available to mitigate climate change at scale. Protecting carbon-rich ecosystems also provides extensive benefits to biodiversity and the local communities reliant on forest resources. High-integrity climate finance projects remain an irreplaceable tool to drive large scale climate finance from the global north into long term conservation of tropical forests, and high-quality forest carbon projects that use jurisdictionally allocated baselines can play an important role in meeting this goal through global carbon markets.

In this context, WCS welcomes the new avoided deforestation methodology released by Verra as a major evolution, based on learning accumulated during over a decade of experience as the standard adhered to by the largest number of avoided deforestation projects around the world.

WCS staff Dr. Sarah M Walker and Kevin Brown made substantial contributions to the development of this methodology, helping to ensure it appropriately rewards conservation projects that deliver high-integrity benefits for climate, biodiversity, and communities. 

Said Kevin Brown, WCS’s Lead for Technical Standards in Nature-based Solutions:

“Several technical innovations within the methodology are designed to increase confidence around the atmospheric impact of forest conservation.” 

Under the new methodology, datasets used in calculation of project crediting baselines will be determined by Verra rather than project developers, eliminating a potential conflict of interest. Conservativeness of crediting baselines is further enhanced through more stringent rules around the use of historical data to project future trends and as well as more thorough treatment of uncertainty across all calculations. Finally, this transition away from project-developed baselines towards a system of baseline allocation from a shared jurisdiction creates a clear pathway for countries to leverage project-scale REDD impact as they continue to build their jurisdictional programs.

Said Dr. Sarah M Walker, Director of REDD+ at WCS:

“Within the next year and a half estimates of baseline unplanned deforestation levels will be produced by Verra for the majority of tropical countries using a consistent methodological approach that is compliant with the world’s dominant voluntary market standard. This provides country governments and project developers the opportunity to rapidly assess the GHG emission reduction potential resulting from lowering deforestation rates. Eliminating baseline uncertainty will remove a major barrier to more rapid scaling of natural climate solutions and their assessment under different market scenarios.” 

WCS works in over 50 countries around the world, through the largest field-based conservation program globally, and is currently working with several tropical forest governments to assess and employ this new methodology and thus access climate finance and enable sustainable management of forest resources.