Realizing the social value of impermanent carbon credits

Balmford, A., Keshav, S., Venmans, F. et al. | Nat. Clim. Chang. 13, 1172–1178 (2023) | 2023 | Peer Reviewed | Review |


Efforts to avert dangerous climate change by conserving and restoring natural habitats are hampered by concerns over the credibility of methods used to quantify their long-term impacts. Here we develop a flexible framework for estimating the net social benefit of impermanent nature-based interventions that integrates three substantial advances: (1) conceptualizing the permanence of a project’s impact as its additionality over time; (2) risk-averse estimation of the social cost of future reversals of carbon gains; and (3) post-credit monitoring to correct errors in deliberately pessimistic release forecasts. Our framework generates incentives for safeguarding already credited carbon while enabling would-be investors to make like-for-like comparisons of diverse carbon projects. Preliminary analyses suggest nature-derived credits may be competitively priced even after adjusting for impermanence.