Wisdom of Experts: A New Approach to Carbon Validation

Open Forest Protocol
Open Forest Protocol
8 min readAug 10, 2023

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Quality of voluntary carbon credits issued from some of the industry’s largest players continues to undergo intense scrutiny from the media and credit ratings agencies. Demonstrating the integrity of environmental credits has never been more important to the future of the voluntary market, and the planet.

As an abstracted form of value, a carbon credit is legitimized by the data supporting it. In other words, a credit is just a document representing that something has been accomplished. In the case of an afforestation/reforestation carbon credit, for example, that “something” is that a tonne of carbon has indeed been removed from the atmosphere by a newly planted forest and is now embedded within the living biomass of that forest.

Across different standards and methodologies, the ability to deliver a data-backed carbon credit relies on a multi-step supply chain, broadly:

1. initial data gathering

2. independent audit and verification of that data

3. the capacity to transparently access and re-review all of the steps that ultimately resulted in the credit issuance.

Any supply chain is only as good as its weakest point or step in the process.

In this article, we’ll be focusing on OFP’s approach to step 2, third-party verification and auditing. To read more about the general validation process and philosophy, head here.

In a legacy system, this process is typically handled by an entity called a Validation and Verification Body, (commonly referred to as a VVB). These entities are certified by the standard-bearer and follow a specific path to auditing and approving (or not) the data. Verification is typically a many-months-long process that is carried out when the project developer chooses one approved VVB to perform the necessary functions required before the project can move forward towards credit issuance.

This process has seen little iteration in the past 25 years and comes with a host of questions regarding the baked-in incentive structures- Can we trust a VVB that’s hired by a project developer? Does their chance of being hired next time depend on the outcome of their verification this time? Is verification done in a way that is transparent, traceable, and viewable as part of the documentation (data) supporting the ultimate credit? Can we trust the opinion of a single organization with a single organizational culture and set of technological capabilities?

These are the types of uncertainties that we remove from the table with Open Forest Protocol’s groundbreaking approach to data verification.

Today we have access to more technologies to verify environmental data than at any point in history, such as remote sensing, LiDAR, Geospatial, drones, AI, and even space technology. We’re seeing a proliferation of companies applying these technologies on their own to add integrity to environmental data and data-backed assets and each piece has a part to play in measuring sequestered carbon. Yet efforts to combine and coordinate verification across these technologies has been limited to a few singular organizations bringing them under a single roof.

What if all technologies, viewpoints, cultures, and competencies could be applied to each and every data set, to minimize blind spots and maximize data quality?

Welcome to OFP.

At Open Forest Protocol, coordination is baked into our very DNA. We’ve designed a system that coordinates across multiple technologies, points of view, and even organizational cultures to eliminate blind spots, and establish a common thread of truth for nature-based data sets.

In practice, it looks like this: If I bring my drone technology and you bring your geospatial measurement, we compare our data, we fill the gaps and holes that our respective systems naturally generate (we are human, after all) and collectively agree based on shared conclusions.

Imagine: rather than just two organizations coordinating, dozens, ultimately hundreds of unique organizations coalesce to ascertain the integrity of each and every environmental-data-based claim!

Validators can include both remote companies assessing data quality from across the planet, as well as on-the-ground companies, and adjacent communities, ensuring localized and community-based project involvement is not limited to project operators.

Welcome to the notion of “Wisdom of Experts”, or more specifically, what Open Forest Protocol enables by creating a malleable protocol that not just incentivizes but requires mass collaboration to be successful. This is not a new standard, an attempt to reinvent the wheel, nor a jab at competition with other verification bodies- rather it is the very platform and system that can bring them all together.

How it works:

On OFP, unlike classic VVBs, the entire validation process can be completed in 37 days.

Our first Validation cycle, launched in April 2023, established a ‘baseline upload’, where the projects are feeding the system with a comprehensive first look at the state of their project. All results from this initial baseline data upload display in the OFP Ecosystem Explorer, from which anyone and everyone can see the project’s data upload and results going forward.

This baseline data set is either confirmed or denied. Malicious projects are removed, and projects rejected for other reasons (such as an incomplete data upload) are provided guidance and allowed another try in the next data upload period.

Data is re-measured, and re-verified every 6 months for the first 24 months, and then every single year thereafter, ensuring continued transparency and traceability for the entire project lifecycle.

Hear From our Validators

We’ve cultivated a network of carefully selected organizations and companies with reputable track records to be a part of the OFP Validation network- now over 24 strong and growing. These entities are based all over the world, from Europe to South America and beyond. Let us introduce you to three Validators, each working with different and unique technologies to comprehensively measure each forest upload. Their hard work supports the value of the carbon credit generated, ensuring an immutable stamp of data that is fully transparent.

1.CarbonSpace

CarbonSpace is a digital Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (dMRV) tool based on a unique AI technology. Combining satellite and meteorological data with a globally distributed network of eddy-covariance ground stations, CarbonSpace can provide accurate carbon flux data remotely for any land asset. With over 50 projects in the portfolio, they range from a variety of forest projects to mangroves and grasslands management. The CarbonSpace technology addresses a number of challenges currently existing in the carbon monitoring of lands, and provides a consistent and scalable dMRV tool with historical data from 2000, enabling long-term GHG MMRV support and providing reliable carbon baselines.

“Multiple validation of various elements of an existing ecosystem can help further increase the frequency, type, methodology diversity and overall credibility of the OFP projects. Together we can achieve unprecedented levels of transparency.”

CarbonSpace joined the Open Forest Protocol Validator family with the realization of the potential to increase transparency and reduce the complexity and uncertainty of nature based projects, inherent in the separate measurement of each carbon pool. Their data offers an accurate, big-picture perspective on ecosystem carbon fluxes, which is complementary to the approaches of other OFP validator partners.

2.Kanop

Kanop is an AI-powered SaaS platform revolutionizing MRV (Measurement, Reporting, and Verification) for natural ecosystems conservation and restoration projects, addressing the need for trustable, scalable and affordable solutions. They compute multi-spectral optical, radar and multi-temporal satellite images from different sources with proprietary deep learning algorithms to predict stock and changes in forest cover, canopy height, biomass and carbon over time.

Working on all types and sizes of forest projects globally, from deforestation to agroforestry and revegetation, Kanop partners with project developers and scientific institutions to match their estimates with the field data. The team at Kanop believes that accurate and meaningful measurements will play a pivotal role in unlocking the full potential of nature in the future.

“There is a clear need to improve confidence in the carbon markets. This requires the development of reliable and impartial measurement and reporting techniques, as well as the validation of these measurements by several entities. This step will certainly be essential in the future to avoid misreported impact metrics.”

The Kanop vision for a greener world encompasses broad adoption and implementation of nature-based solutions. They envision a planet where we restore and conserve our forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other ecosystems, not just for their intrinsic value, but as crucial allies in our fight against climate change. These areas act as natural carbon sinks, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in a way that benefits all life forms.

3.GTIMS Arboriculture Consulting

Focusing on arboriculture consulting and the management of trees in the built environment, GTIMS works with private clients along with estates, universities, corporates and municipalities. Using GIS based software, they assess, record, and validate findings. They are actively involved in the development of urban forest management with plans for using GIS as a mechanism to a data driven service. This GIS suite allows the team at GTIMS to gather data on a variety of aspects of any given tree in a location and develop and meet a multitude of requirements.

Employing a system that cannot be manipulated or corrupted increases validity of data and the verification process is streamlined, or automated in some cases to generate exceptionally fast results. In an age where we have a multitude of technological resources, dMRV is a prime example of utilizing a technology based system to drive accurate results in the shortest time possible.

Matthew, director of GTMIS, works with data on a daily basis and was keen to join the OFP Validator family to create real change in the future, setting a benchmark for others to follow. Diversity is key to ensuring trust, and having access to multiple sources to validate a set of data means that manipulation is minimized. As for the GTMIS vision for a greener world, it encompasses embracing biodiversity, creating sustainability without sacrifice, and ensuring we take ownership of positive change for the earth we live on.

“To be involved with the OFP, which I believe will grow and develop into a leader in the space, and to be part of a project that utilizes a variety of new ways to ensure accountability and validity has kept me keenly interested and I have enjoyed being part of the validation team.”

If you’re interested to learn more about our Validator network, head to our website. To support Open Forest Protocol as we bring the world’s most transparent carbon forward, subscribe to our newsletter and follow along on social media. We are always open to new partners, projects, validators, and contributors.

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Open Forest Protocol
Open Forest Protocol

Blockchain platform for next generation forest projects. Transparently measure, report, and verify the entire life cycle of trees.