28 October 2022

Time to rethink biodiversity: SDG 14 & 15

12 min

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 goals which were designed to transform the world in every aspect of sustainable development.

In the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM), the SDG framework is commonly used to express the non-carbon impacts of projects. Demand for projects with these types of co-benefits in the VCM is increasing, and supply is being encouraged. In particular, SDG 14 (Life Below Water) and SDG 15 (Life on Land) are frequently associated with biodiversity claims in the VCM. SDG 15 is the sixth most commonly reported SDG co-benefit claim, accounting for 10.5% of all SDG claims within the VCM. 

BeZero Carbon has published a report that looks at the application of the SDG framework to the VCM for co-benefits claims, with a focus on SDGs 14 & 15.

Click here to download the full report

The report finds that increasing the applicability of the SDG framework to the VCM will require improved transparency on the meaning of SDG 14 & 15 claims and increased buyer awareness. It suggests that to address the weak representation of SDG 14 & 15 biodiversity claims in the VCM, several actions must be taken:

1. The robustness of SDG 14 & 15 claims in the VCM needs to improve.

Introducing a globally standardised SDG tracking platform would make data more accessible and help to provide more accurate base lines for project developers and buyers.

2. Market participants should be cautious of being over reliant on the SDG claims as an indicator of a project’s overall impact and be aware of what they represent.

This is especially acute for biodiversity and SDG 14 & 15, which are of particular interest in the VCM given the large number of nature based projects.

3. The VCM needs a more effective measure of biodiversity given its complexity.

As our analysis suggests, SDG 14 & 15 indicators do not sufficiently measure biodiversity. Therefore, other measures of biodiversity should be explored as alternative metrics.

4. Co-benefits should not be simplified into a single binary measure as it poses a number of issues, both in how these are accredited and how they are subsequently used by market participants.

The report shows these issues are especially acute for SDG 14 & 15 which are often used to imply biodiversity impact. Increasing the transparency of what SDG 14 & 15 claims represent and understanding of the UN SDG Framework, would support proper assessment of biodiversity co-benefits.

Report by Ellie Ould, Euan Casey, Torrey Sanseverino and Nick Atkinson

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