Knowledge Exchange Fellowship to bring biodiversity science expertise to developing the first biodiversity credit standard

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography

Abstract

Biodiversity is the variety of living things - a simple concept that is remarkably hard to measure. This project is to work with industrial and third sector partners to develop the first biodiversity credit standard - core social, environmental and governance requirements biodiversity projects must meet to become certified.

Recent and upcoming legislation in the UK, EU and elsewhere is introducing greater requirements for organisations of many types to report on the effects of their activities on both carbon and nature. There is also rapidly increasing private-sector interest in nature conservation as part of corporate social responsibility, positive publicity and 'doing the right thing'. These trends, plus various natural capital impact assessment schemes being developed, are creating a large demand for biodiversity credits, but no biodiversity credit standard exists yet. Biodiversity credits, as with carbon credits, assign investable and tradeable economic value to biodiversity, for example allowing a landowner to raise finance (based on forecast biodiversity uplift) to fund nature conservation on her land.

The Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation's 2021 Conservation Finance report shows very rapid growth in private-sector biodiversity funding: from US$2 billion in 2016 to $18 billion in 2020. Remarkably, the report concludes that the growth rate could be considerably higher, but is held back by lack of appropriate methods for quantifying biodiversity. This was my starting-point. I recently got NERC-ESRC funding to provide a synthesis of methods to quantify biodiversity for potential use in biodiversity valuation and trading. The project starts February 2022. It should produce rigorous academic underpinning to enable a sound methodology for quantifying biodiversity uplift or loss, for use by people who are not biodiversity scientists but are working with, and certifying, biodiversity credits (e.g. investors, regulators, economists).

My Fellowship project is co-designed with stakeholders. It centres on a partnership between the Wallacea Trust, a conservation charity of which I am a Trustee, and Plan Vivo, a charity that certifies development projects. The two have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a biodiversity credit standard, and have already received a large amount of interest (see Beneficiaries). I am one of a 50-strong Biodiversity Uplift Methodology Working Group, meeting since mid-2021. I have now been selected as the only academic on a 10-person Plan Vivo Biodiversity Standard Working Group (BSWG), to start in 2022. Once the credit standard is operating, a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) will be formed, and I have just been asked to Chair that. A key focus is to build diversity and inclusion into all aspects of developing and implementing the standard.

Once the standard is launched, I will work with my stakeholder colleagues to continuously improve it, and develop tools to supplement it. We have already produced v.1 of the Project Idea Note template, and invited 10 of the many interested organisations to use it to apply. Those first 10 project applications (from 8 countries in 5 continents; see Beneficiares) will be processed iteratively, learning from the experience to improve the credit standard and its workflows before full roll-out. The BSWG and TAC will be responsible for this work, so I will be at the centre of it.

Biodiversity is difficult to measure, especially in a repeatable, auditable way. The method we are developing for the credit standard requires field sampling and significant cost for project applicants. So we aim to develop tools to filter potential project sites to a short list: a 'triage system'. This will be a key project focus in later stages, once the first objectives are achieved. I will also be working on extensions to the standard, and determining what needs further research, to ensure the longevity of the standard.

Publications

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