With growing awareness of the problem of climate change, governments, industries and other organisations are seeking ways of reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Quantified reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from project-based activities, so-called carbon credits, may be used to help offset emissions.
Through the Plan Vivo System, the purchase of such carbon credits not only helps to mitigate climate change but can help communities in developing countries invest in their own future, thereby contributing to poverty reduction. Managing carbon in terrestrial ecosystems also has an important role in adapting to climate change, creating more resilient ecosystems and promoting biodiversity through planting and protecting native forests.
Mankind has exploited forests for fibre, food and fuel. Today, we realise that forests contain a large proportion of the earths biological diversity and are important components of the global carbon and hydrological cycles. Currently, the deforestation of about 17 million hectares per year causes annual emissions to the atmosphere of 1.8 billion tonnes of carbon as carbon dioxide. This is 25% of the total carbon dioxide emissions attributable to man.
However, when forests are restored or conserved they can act as sinks of carbon dioxide. Thus, fossil fuel users who contribute to the preservation or establishment of forests can reduce their net greenhouse gas emissions.
Companies, individuals or institutions wishing to offset greenhouse gas emissions can purchase Verified Emission Reductions (VERs) via the offset project. These VERs for the Sofala Community Carbon Project are in the form of Plan Vivo Certificates.
The Sofala Community Carbon Project uses the Plan Vivo management system to register and monitor carbon sequestration activities implemented by farmers. Local forestry and agroforestry extensionists employed by Envirotrade help farmers to draw up their own work plans, known as Plan Vivos – for forestry or agroforestry systems that reflect their own needs, priorities and capabilities. These are assessed for technical feasibility, social and environmental impact and carbon sequestration potential using technical specifications approved by the Plan Vivo Foundation. Viable plans are registered with the project sponsor and an agreement for the supply of carbon services via the sponsor is signed. The project then provides farmers with financial and technical assistance to implement farm or community-scale forestry and agroforestry developments, on the basis of the carbon that will be sequestered.
One of the most common questions we are asked is: ‘how do you count the carbon?’ Each carbon standard uses a methodology to do this – in the case of Plan Vivo, these are specific to the local area and based on local data. We have one technical specification, or methodology, for each of our carbon sequestration activities. The current technical specifications in use by the Sofala Community Carbon Project include: