Our Response to the Controversy around Carbon Credits
Our Response to the Controversy around Carbon Credits
A recent article published in the Guardian has shaken the credibility of the Voluntary Carbon Market by claiming that offsets coming from over 90 percent of REDD+ projects validated and verified by the leading agency Verra involve “phantom credits”. The article cites recent research to slam the methodologies used by Verra to estimate baseline deforestation scenarios in restoration projects. These baselines are an important function in a complex formula that is used to estimate the number of carbon credits generated by a restoration project. They are, anyway, difficult to estimate since they account for counterfactual “what if” events, but Verra claims that they are using the most advanced science and boots-on-the-ground approaches to ensure that their methodologies are robust, accurate and location-based.
Verra was quick to respond to the Guardian’s claims and issued a Technical Review of the research papers that were referenced in it.. Among the main arguments is that the research cited by the Guardian is suffering from flawed methodologies itself. The criticism lies in that the researchers are taking a generalised and over-simplified approach when comparing their baseline scenarios with the forest protection potential of the restoration sites. These limitations are acknowledged by the research team itself in their article, but the Guardian makes no mention of them. Most importantly, the cited article is a pre-print, meaning that has not yet gone through the peer review process, which is a prerequisite for publication in a scientific journal. Leading organisations in the Voluntary Carbon Market, like Sylvera and Everland stepped in to reject the Guardian analysis as “flawed”, only a part of 50 organisations representing a mix of developers, ratings platforms, NGOs, marketplaces, intermediaries, and industry bodies penning an open letter in support of high-integrity carbon markets.
How the GamesForest.Club responds to this Controversy
Carbon credits have been in use for decades in the Voluntary Carbon Market, which has grown significantly in recent years as efforts to decarbonize the global economy increase. They are now recognised for their important dual role in the battle against climate change. They enable companies to minimise their carbon footprint and support decarbonization beyond that, therefore accelerating the broader transition to a lower-carbon future. At the same time, sales of carbon credits help finance climate solutions on the ground.
Methodologies and standards need to be scrutinised constantly and consistently, to ensure that carbon projects are real, legit and deliver concrete and measurable results towards the 1.5oC. The currently observed trust bottleneck can only provide useful lessons and push for more transparency and accountability. Frontier technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchains can play a role in ensuring this. They should be further explored.
Here at the GamesForest.Club, we provide clear guidance to our members on what would constitute an environmentally sound climate strategy and offsetting programme. This process starts by estimating the annual CO2 emissions generated by gaming companies. Our members can then have the opportunity to push toward net-zero emissions by setting clear targets and by supporting an array of carefully selected forest restoration projects in four continents. These projects are actively planting thousands of trees, while supporting the livelihoods of local communities and custodians of the newly planted forests.
With relation to the recent controversy, the restoration portfolio of the GamesForest.Club:
- does not include any projects validated and verified by Verra
- does not include any REDD+ projects
We approach the climate adaptation and mitigation potential of forests in a holistic way. Our assessment methodology aims to ensure maximum carbon absorption in the most cost-effective way, while also integrating multiple aspects of restored ecosystem integrity. This means that we do not only focus on carbon sequestration, but also integrate multiple sustainability criteria in terms of ecological, social, and economic gains, such as protecting biodiversity; improving human health and wellbeing; increasing food and water security; delivering goods, services, and economic prosperity for all. To achieve this, we assess the projects we support on the basis of the International Principles and Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration, highlighting the role of local biodiversity and reference ecosystems and connecting carbon offsetting with social, community, productivity and sustainability goals. In the meantime, we advocate for the adoption of highly-ambitious restoration projects by the gaming and creative industry, keeping in mind that climate adaptation and forest health is not just about carbon.
Nature-based projects are not the cheapest offset option, but they are our preferred choice for their many benefits besides the carbon offsets they offer. As trees grow, they draw carbon out of the air, which reduces the concentration of carbon dioxide. The CO2 is then stored in living biomass which provides important ecosystem services and habitat for the web of life that a forest supports. At the same time, local communities living inside or around these forests benefit directly from the food, clean water, materials, and climate resilience that comes with the new forest.
To achieve the maximum co-benefits, we actively support and advocate for carbon offsetting through agroforestry projects verified by the Plan Vivo standard. This allows us to harness the potential of protecting ecosystems and wildlife biodiversity, while safeguarding social heritage. This offers significant added value to our members’ corporate climate, but also social responsibility. Offsets are created based on either the carbon captured by newly planted trees or the carbon not released through protecting ‘old-growth’ trees inside their pristine habitats. These projects are based all across the world, from growing forests in Germany, to planting food forests in Indonesia and protecting rainforests in Peru.
The gaming industry is the biggest entertainment sector, with a massive carbon footprint that needs to be radically reduced.
Not just for the sake of saving the planet (the ultimate objective on its own), but for saving the industry itself. Our mission is to empower gaming companies to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible before considering carbon offsets. Carbon credits should certainly not be used to just buy them a clean conscience or create a mirage of sustainability in the eyes of their gamers. They offer a valuable tool, and when used to supplement a company’s mitigation efforts, it can create a genuinely sustainable and resilient foundation for the future of the industry. With 3.2 billion gamers by their side, gaming companies might become the game-changer in the fight against climate change.