In 2015, the UN General Assembly announced a monumental set of goals for the world to achieve by 2030. These 17 global goals , the Sustainable Development Goals, focus on the environment, society, human rights and biodiversity. Together, they have a single objective: to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
The clock is ticking. With less than 10 years left to meet the challenge laid down by the UN, the responsibility to realise this blueprint for a better world falls not only to governments but also corporates to move the needle in the right direction. In this article we explore how carbon offsetting can be a truly effective mechanism for corporates to directly and indirectly contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.
High-quality offsets contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals
Carbon offsetting is increasingly being considered as a way for companies to reduce their carbon footprint and compensate for their unavoidable emissions. But there’s more to carbon credits than curbing greenhouse gas emissions. High-quality carbon offsets have benefits that ripple out to affect broader environmental, social and ecological systems.
These impacts are often referred to as ‘co-benefits’ or ‘additional impacts.’ They vary from project to project, and range from job creation that tackles poverty, to providing education and protecting life on land and water. Through careful management and monitoring these projects can positively impact surrounding communities and ecology. High-integrity carbon credits from quality projects give corporates the assurance that they are generating maximum return for their investment.
At Quadriz, our REDD+ Corazón Verde del Chaco project perfectly illustrates just how powerful carbon offsets can be as a tool to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Corazón Verde del Chaco carbon project is located in the Paraguayan Chaco, more specifically Puerto Casado, Department of Presidente Hayes. It exists to protect and conserve the forest from the immediate threat of deforestation, initially conserving 32,000 hectares designed under two leading carbon standards, the Verified Carbon Standard and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard – with the potential to scale and protect an even greater area of native forest.
What makes the Corazón Verde del Chaco, and other high-quality offset projects so impactful, is the number of global goals they contribute to beyond Sustainable Development Goal 13: climate action.
Social benefits from offsets
Under the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standards Program, offset projects have a set of minimum requirements when it comes to contributions to social and biodiversity benefits. The Corazón Verde del Chaco carbon project will contribute to the maximum number of the Sustainable Development Goals over the project lifetime.
First and foremost, the project will contribute to two of the global goals that relate to social improvement. It aims to have the greatest benefit for local communities where the project is based. This is primarily achieved by increasing the incomes of locals, through new, well-paid job opportunities and secure employment that are required to manage the project. These jobs cover a range of skills, from employing and training local forest rangers to hiring employees to work in a planned visitor centre. Without the project, these jobs would not exist and there would be less employment overall in the region. This means that the project directly contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 1: no poverty as well as Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
Traditionally, countries with strong education institutions also have healthy jobs and employment prospects. With this in mind, in addition to tackling poverty, the Corazón Verde del Chaco carbon project also directly contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 4: quality education. The project will provide training and education to employees around workers’ rights and workplace safety. In addition, the visitor centre will offer further education about the importance of conservation and reforestation protection for both the workers and the visitors. This creates a feedback loop which reinforces the importance of the project for current and future generations by teaching them about its ecological and environmental uniqueness and significance.
Biodiversity benefits from offsets
Unlike carbon credits that are generated by renewable energy projects, forest conservation projects can contribute additional impacts in the form of biodiversity benefits. As a natural ecological system, forests are a hive of biodiversity that is globally in decline and in desperate need of protection and regeneration.
This is particularly important in the Gran Chaco, as it is home to a number of endangered and endemic species. The Chaco forest’s ecosystem contains 3,400 plant species, 500 bird species, 150 mammal species and 220 reptile and amphibian species. Among these are several endangered species as listed on the IUCN red list. From the endemic and endangered chacoan peccary to jaguars, giant armadillos and giant anteaters, the conservation of the forest helps to ensure the survival of these vulnerable and endangered species by protecting their habitat from deforestation.
One of the main goals of the project is to protect the rich biodiversity of the Paraguayan Chaco, and this directly contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 15: life on land.
The UN defines this goal as any action to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.” In addition to the endangered and endemic species it hosts, the Paraguayan Chaco is also one of the last jaguar corridors of South America, which makes it a unique and valuable ecosystem. The Corazón Verde del Chaco project protects this wildlife corridor and uses groundbreaking biodiversity monitoring to survey the jaguar population. Using motion-sensitive camera traps, Quadriz has already recorded evidence of jaguars regularly crossing the conserved forest. If destroyed, it would demolish a significant area of the jaguars’ territory and push this endangered species even closer to the brink of survival. Through offsetting emissions with forest conservation, corporates directly help to secure the future of these ecosystems and the incredible species that call them home.
The secondary biodiversity benefit of REDD+ projects such as the Corazón Verde del Chaco is the protection of life below water, defined as Sustainable Development Goal 14. Though it is more commonly associated with marine protection projects, forest protection is also effective in protecting life below water. This is achieved through conservation that reduces erosion and water runoff, which includes runoff from cattle ranches. This runoff can be toxic, and when they pollute the river systems that surround the forest they contaminate the water and become harmful to marine life. By keeping land intact and tackling erosion, the runoff is less likely to leak into the Paraguay River and other river and wetland systems, saving the fish and amphibian species below water.
By choosing carbon credits generated from REDD+ conservation projects, corporates are tackling not only the climate crisis, but the biodiversity and extinction crises too.
Climate action and carbon offsetting
Ultimately carbon finance exists to compensate for GHG emissions and give corporates a chance to engage in meaningful climate action.
This is underscored by Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate action, which is defined as “urgent action to combat climate change and its impact.”
In the case of Corazón Verde del Chaco, its impact is particularly high as it protects one of the world’s most deforested forest areas, which also acts as one of the largest forest carbon sinks globally. Though it is true that all high-integrity carbon offsets will, by nature, contribute to SDG 13, by either removing, avoiding, sequestering or reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the far-reaching impacts of climate change can only be addressed by projects that deliver social, educational, economic environmental and ecological benefits.
By doing thorough research and due diligence and sourcing high-quality offsets with the most far-reaching impacts, corporates future-proof their business plans and satisfy increasing global customer demand for products and services from truly sustainable businesses. More importantly, they meaningfully contribute to the UN’s vision of a secure climate and future for all.