Spain should position itself as a European benchmark for nature-based solutions

The global climate and environmental crisis puts the current way of life on Earth at risk and calls for immediate action. We must act urgently to mitigate climate change, protect and enhance biodiversity, desertification and loss of fertile soils, improve water availability and food supply.

Applying nature-based solutions (NbS) is the only viable option to achieve these tasks, generating multiple benefits and addressing all climate, environmental and socio-economic aspects in an integrated manner. However, its implementation requires significant investment and regulation, which reduces potential adverse effects.

In this sense, from the Tierra Pura Foundation, we promote the development and promotion of voluntary carbon markets as a tool to mobilize funding and establish transparent and strict regulatory frameworks that allow Spain to position itself as a European benchmark in the application of NbS in terrestrial ecosystems. This mechanism allows companies, organizations or institutions to acquire carbon credits generated outside their activity in order to neutralize part of the emissions that they have not been able to eliminate through internal mitigation measures. It is important to note that companies participating in these markets are not required to offset their emissions. But currently the demand for certified climate benefits originating in Spain is not covered by the supply.

The current system of national offsets, carbon footprint registration, compensation and absorption projects of the Office of Climate Change of the Ministry of Environmental Transition allows organizations that have registered their carbon footprint to offset emissions through capture by implementing reforestation projects in areas affected by fires and conversion of non-forest land to forest. However, as of December 2021, only 4% of recorded carbon footprints have been partially or fully offset.

In addition, there are international standards, such as VCS-Verra and Gold Standard, which are used by national companies to compensate through projects developed outside of Spain, since there is currently no project certified to this type of standard in national territory ..

The reality is that at the national level, projects are developed based on the rules of the Miteco Registry, but the transaction of carbon credits takes place outside the system, through bilateral agreements between organizations and project promoters. In most of these cases, the management of the project after the first years of planting becomes the responsibility of the organization that wishes to compensate and the landowner, who must ensure the permanence of the project for a period of between 30 and 50 years. years. during which they will be able to use the exploitation of these forests once it becomes real.

Through our own market research and analysis, we have identified four premises at Fundación Tierra Pura. The first is that there is a lot of interest from large companies and investors to acquire carbon credits certified according to international standards, as well as medium-low emission companies through credits certified by Miteco; second, the difference in price per ton between national projects and others implemented in developing countries is reduced; the third is that Spain has significant potential, with available land and expertise in the field, and finally that there is a deficit of carbon credits to meet demand both nationally and internationally.

From this point of view, from Tierra Pura we propose a series of actions that, carried out in parallel, allow the dynamism of voluntary carbon markets as a catalyst for the positioning of Spain as a point of reference in the development of NBS at the European level. These actions are based on encouraging private sector investment to develop projects that can create a supply of carbon credits in the short term, targeting both the national market and the international market; take advantage of the negotiation situation on the certification rules at the European level to develop a disruptive transformation of the system that allows the use of the national surplus of forest land development and revise the existing regulations to expand the permitted activities and implement options , which add value in addition to the projects according to considerations based on the different climatic conditions and impacts of the projects.

In addition, it is important to increase the environmental integrity and socio-economic impact of the projects, so we propose to ensure the positive impact on biodiversity as well as preventive fire management; increasing the stringency of use, density and distribution of species; details the obligations of the organizer during the period of persistence; allow the possibility of obtaining parallel financing; enable the use of alternative evaluation methodologies and new types of projects; and establishing policies that facilitate access to public lands.

In short, we at Tierra Pura are convinced of the climate and environmental benefits that can be generated through the proper implementation of initiatives based on offsets. For this reason, in the last quarter of 2022 we will register a reforestation project developed from 2021 in Asturias in the Miteco register, with 10,000 tons of CO2 available to offset emissions; In the same way, we will start the implementation of a forest restoration project in northern Spain, with the aim of being certified according to the international VCS-Verra standard.

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