We can offset or, put another way, neutralize emissions we cannot avoid. However, this only makes sense if our chosen sequestration project is conducted under a standard that aligns with the current scientific state of knowledge. This ensures that the project truly supports the global efforts toward carbon neutrality, the restoration of biodiversity and contributes to improving the living conditions of local communities.
Carbon neutrality, or how to go “zero”?
To offset emissions means to achieve a balance between CO2 emitted and that captured from the atmosphere. We can talk about carbon neutrality when the balance between gases emitted and captured from the atmosphere is zero. Offsetting, i.e., financing the reduction or elimination of greenhouse gases equal to the emissions one generates, is a tool for capturing emitted carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We can do it through the abovementioned sequestration projects, such as agroforestry, which involve planting new trees or protecting existing ones. The restoration and care of forest ecosystems undoubtedly positively impact the climate. However, there is much inaccuracy under the famous phrase “planting forests,” through which offsetting is eagerly promoted.
Offsetting – the right or wrong thing to do?
It depends. Suppose offsetting activities are not preceded by a credible calculation and an emissions reduction strategy, and an organization that offsets continuously harms the environment – in that case, we are dealing with carbon washing.
The market for carbon offsets itself is also not entirely transparent. There are practices of selling carbon credits from projects that do not meet their targets, and their required duration (necessary to absorb the purchased carbon credits) is not secured. The same carbon credits are also sometimes sold several times to different buyers.
There are projects, however, carried out without malpractice and in accordance with scientific knowledge. They are designed to offset CO2 emissions in a genuine, authentic, and measurable way. A properly conducted sequestration project is an environmental investment that can positively impact climate, biodiversity, and human rights.
The question, however, is how to know which agroforestry project is worth the investment.
Standards for sequestration projects
There is increasing global interest in carbon offsetting projects and, what follows, the need for validation and verification. For this reason, we suggest investing in activities covered by a standard, i.e., a model and regulatory standard for implementing such a project.
A comprehensive sequestration project standard should be financially transparent, monitored, audited, and have a system for recording and enforcing effects. Meeting the appropriate standard also ensures that the project site has not contributed to the degradation of the existing ecosystem and that the new plantings will serve to regenerate the depleted land, restoring its quality. In addition, the standard guarantees the agroforestry project’s existence and protection throughout the decades essential for the realization of the objectives, i.e., sequestration of the amounts of CO2e calculated by experts. It is also necessary to secure the project according to the United Nations Development Program standards in agroforestry projects.
As you can see, there are many guidelines which we should apply to properly carry out sequestration projects. To ensure that the offsets we offer meet all the requirements and that our plantings have a tangible impact on greenhouse gas sequestration, we at the TerGo Foundation created our standard – the International Forestry Carbon Credit standard. The IFCC standard guarantees that carbon offsets from covered agroforestry projects are of the highest quality.
IFCC Standard TerGo – what makes us unique?
The IFCC standard aims not only to offset emissions but also to support local communities to develop more sustainably and increase their resilience to climate change thanks to their proximity to forest areas.
With the standard’s launch, we want to encourage the reforestation of new areas and the protection of existing forest ecosystems in every region of the world. The standard also opens new financial opportunities for climate change mitigation and adaptation activities.
What else makes our standard unique?
- IFCC strengthens entrepreneurship of landowners and farmers
In developing countries, people often inherit land rather than purchase it. The land does not have as high market value as in the western part of the world. Sometimes it is sterilized by long-term agriculture relying on monoculture methods or pesticides. Agroforestry projects offer the opportunity to regenerate the land and do not generate additional costs for the landowners.The traditional use of agricultural land requires an investment that pays off only when the crops are harvested and sold successfully. Subjecting such land to the IFCC standard and making it an agroforestry project guarantees an additional form of income for farmers – not only in the form of harvested crops but also in the opportunity to produce and sell verified emission reduction units – VERs (Verified Emission Reductions).
Projects must be implemented in the regions most severely affected by climate change. Foreign capital investment in these countries will give the region’s residents a chance to improve their living conditions.
- The IFCC meets the Sustainable Development Goals
In developing the IFCC standard, the idea was to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals and the arrangements of the 2015 Paris Agreement to the fullest extent possible.Transformation of uncultivated land into agroforestry projects creates new jobs, strengthens entrepreneurship, and provides new income opportunities for landowners. That leads to an improved quality of life for local communities (Goals 1, 2, 3 and 8). The ability to sell the VERs obtained from such projects further strengthens local residential communities and introduces innovative solutions to developing societies (Goals 9 and 11).
IFCC-compliant agroforestry projects are carried out on a scientific basis. We work with scientists, for example, environmental and greenhouse gas emission specialists, biologists, and agricultural specialists. We share the knowledge we gain about responsible production with farmers (Goals 9,12, and 17).
Developing new regenerative agricultural methodologies makes it possible to contribute significantly to the effective fight against climate change, restoring biodiversity on depleted lands and capturing CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. The standard also aims to keep the price of carbon credits at an appropriate level to support farmers in caring for forests. As a result, preserving forests will become more profitable than cutting them down and selling timber (Goals 13 and 15). This is a long-term investment, secured for several decades. The adequate cost of reducing greenhouse gases is a real financial boost for developing countries. Moreover, by avoiding underpricing, we can better incentivize organizations and companies to reduce rather than offset emissions (Goal 16).
- The IFCC is financially accessible to all
A very low financial entry threshold also distinguishes our standard. Unlike existing standards, we do not charge registration fees or inspection fees. Instead, the brokerage fee applies to the VERs created through the project and their sale. The only expenses that the project owner incurs are related to the sale of offsets and the validation and verification of the project during its lifetime, making the project require little investment or capital at the start. At the same time, the costs incurred in the later stages of the project are up to several times lower than the prices of competing standards. A condition for running the project is close cooperation with landowners, guaranteeing that profits from the sale of offsets go directly to them instead of being distributed to anonymous brokers.
With preferential entry conditions and low fees over the venture’s life, almost anyone in any part of the world can set up their sequestration project.
TerGo agroforestry project in Belize
Although recently released, we are confident that the IFCC standard will bring desirable results. Since 2020, our ongoing project in Belize has been working along these lines. It is a flagship example of how the TerGo Foundation wants to work worldwide, improving the environment and the lives of local communities.
We operate 100% transparently in Belize and:
- We educate, providing access to the most up-to-date knowledge on regenerative crops and biodiversity enhancement. We create planting plans in collaboration with scientists to teach sustainable and polycultural agriculture;
- we pay a fair wage – farmers in Belize are paid one-half the wage more than offered for their work in their country;
- we donate crops to farmers – all crops harvested from TerGo crops are donated to farmers and the local community, who can use them in any way they wish;
- we provide infrastructure and working conditions – accommodation and food for farmers;
- we take care of families. We support the most vulnerable families in Belize thanks to the work of the TerGo Foundation.
Join agroforestry projects together with TerGo! Be part of the movement toward climate justice. Invest in transforming uncultivated farmland into diverse fruit forests, support the creation of carbon capture areas, and restore biodiversity – in close cooperation with the local community and for the benefit of the Planet.