© Nick Hall for The Nature Conservancy

The Valdivian Coastal Reserve has become the first forest carbon project in Chile to receive CCB verification that its carbon credits combat climate change, whilst contributing to the conservation of biodiversity and to the development of nearby communities.

The Valdivian Coastal Reserve, managed by The Nature Conservancy and supported by BHP Billiton, is the first carbon credit project in Chile to achieve CCB verification. Chilean companies wanting to use carbon credits to neutralize their operations can now invest in CCB-verified offsets that guarantee that the Valdivian Coastal Reserve (VCR) not only captures carbon, but that it also promotes the welfare of local communities and conserves valuable biodiversity. 

The CCB verification covers 1.200 hectares of privately-owned land for the period 2003-2014.

What are CCB Standards?

The innovative CCB Standards were developed by The Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA), a global initiative that identifies and promotes land-based projects that deliver compelling climate-, biodiversity- and community benefits, and are primarily designed for climate change mitigation projects. 

In the case of the Reserve, the CCBA verified that the project has established a private conservation area under a perpetual easement thus safeguarding some of the world’s last temperate rainforests and avoiding emissions from deforestation and degradation. It also certified that the project generates opportunities for sustainable livelihoods in surrounding communities –such as ecotourism, women’s cooperatives that have set up restaurants, and reforestation activities for fishers so that they can diversify their sources of income. At the same time, the project provides exceptional conditions for the conservation of native species, including the critically endangered Darwin’s fox, and the near-threatened pudu, the world’s smallest deer species through activities and research aimed at their protection.

The Role of The Nature Conservancy

The 50.000-hectare Valdivian Coastal Reserve is a private conservation area located in southernmost Chile in the Los Rios Region. Acquired by The Nature Conservancy in 2003 to save thousands of hectares of millennial native forests from being felled, the site has become one of the largest conservation initiatives in Chile.

The Reserve also has a huge climate change mitigation potential with its old-growth forests – the oldest tree dating back 2,500 years – storing the equivalent of more than 800 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare (324 tons per acre), among the largest carbon per acre capture ratios in the world.

Leonel Sierralta, Executive Director of the Conservancy’s Andes del Sur Conservation Program that oversees the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, explained that “the CCB standard links community work and the management of biodiversity, aspects that we have worked on for years and that are clearly visible in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve. We are proud to have made these projects come to life, enabling the surrounding communities to improve their livelihoods through environmentally-friendly activities, such as eco-tourism and sustainable production practices.”

In 2014, the VCR successfully registered and issued the first "REDD" (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) forest carbon credits in Chile certified by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).

The project was independently certified to have avoided the emissions of over 400.000 metric tons of CO2 between 2003 and 2014.
In other words, the Conservancy’s actions to protect the VCR’s native coastal forests have avoided the release of emissions equivalent to those emanating from more than one million barrels of oil.

So far, companies including Natura, Delta Airlines and Microsoft have acquired VCS-verified carbon credits from the Reserve, the sale of which helps to finance the conservation project.

Combating Climate Change in Chile

Chile recently committed to developing a strategy to fight global warming, along with 194 other nations. The country has developed a voluntary marketplace – that that it seeks to make mandatory – where private entities may mitigate the impact of emissions on the atmosphere by trading carbon credits or bonds.
“Greenhouse gas capture by the forestry sector in Chile is mainly a result of native forest generation and also forestry plantations. Due to the sector’s capacity to contribute to climate change, Chile’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) include a special contribution from this sector, associated to sustainable management, forest regeneration and forestation with mainly native species,” said Chile’s Environment Minister, Pablo Badenier Martinez, at the official announcement of the certification.

“The CCB Standards constitute a voluntary economic instrument that is being developed in parallel with the commitments established in the INDC. Without a doubt, this strengthens the environmental and social benefits that these initiatives promote,” said the Minister, who described the VCR conservation achievements as “very relevant issues for our Ministry.”

Creating a Low Carbon Future

In 2013, the Conservancy signed an agreement with BHP Billiton to ensure the permanent preservation of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve and in 2014, it created the largest conservation easement in Chile protecting the Reserve in perpetuity. “When we committed to this project, we did so to support the conservation of an extremely valuable ecosystem for Chile and the world, and also to contribute to the implementation of the first Chilean carbon credits project under verified standards. With this CCB verification we are accomplishing these goals, and we are very proud to be part of this initiative,” stated Rodolfo Camacho, Environmental Manager of BHP Billiton.

The CCB Standards are audited every five years to ensure they are being complied with. With the support of BHP Billiton, the Reserve has created a new five-year management plan with clear targets regarding conservation, threats, and a monitoring plan that ensures efficient future management. In addition, it recently planted more than 200.000 native trees as part of the pilot for a restoration project.