7 June 2023
ARR projects - the root of carbon removals
Dr Tomi Turner
Carbon Ratings Scientist
Dr Aimee Achilleos
Carbon Ratings Scientist
Dr Rong Fang
Lead RS Scientist
Dr Saheba Bhatnagar
Remote Sensing Scientist
Afforestation, Reforestation and Restoration (ARR) projects are the original carbon removals method within the VCM. They aim to store carbon by increasing biomass and associated carbon pools within a project area, usually through tree planting.
These projects fall into primarily two categories: commercial plantations and community-based tree planting.
Community projects generally achieve a higher overall rating than commercial projects due to their exceedance of common practice.
ARR projects account for 43 of BeZero’s 315 rated projects, and ~4% of BeZero rated credits. These projects extend over 19 countries and five continents. Over the six months prior to March 2023, growth in credit issuance within the ARR sub-sector more than quadrupled, with an increase of 320%. This makes it the fastest growing sub-sector amongst nature based solutions.
ARR projects are highly diverse in their methods, operations and incentives. An instructive way to distinguish ARR project types is splitting them out into two categories: commercial plantations versus community-based tree planting.
Here, we use this distinction to provide case studies for two risk factors - additionality and non-permanence - which vary the most in BeZero Carbon Ratings across ARR projects.
Afforestation, Reforestation and Restoration
ARR projects are the original carbon removals method within the VCM. Emissions removals are achieved by increasing sequestration of carbon by biomass and soil carbon pools above that of a baseline scenario. Key differences between ‘afforestation’, ‘reforestation’, and ‘restoration’ are highlighted in the table below.
Currently, the majority of projects in the ARR sub-sector conduct afforestation or reforestation activities, with relatively few focused primarily on restoration. For this reason, this insight piece focuses on projects that conduct afforestation and reforestation activities. There are also projects within other sectors, such as soil carbon and blue carbon, that conduct some ARR activities, but are classified differently due to their ecosystems and the proportion of credits coming from each project activity.
Most afforestation and reforestation projects fall into one of two categories:
Commercial plantations. These projects mostly focus on large-scale planting of a monoculture of non-native, commercial tree species. These species may be harvested for timber, or produce commercial non-timber forest products such as fruits and nuts. The project proponent receives the benefits of the project’s revenue from the sale of forest products and carbon finance.
Community-based tree planting. These projects facilitate the planting of trees on private lands owned by small-scale landowners. They provide financial, technical, or educational support for landowners to help overcome barriers to planting such as planting costs, lack of expertise or equipment, or lack of knowledge of the benefits of tree planting.