Carbon Ratings

Sylvera’s approach to IFM ratings

by
Annalise Downey
November 10, 2022
Sylvera's Improved Forest Management (IFM) carbon ratings
Sylvera's Improved Forest Management (IFM) carbon ratings

Sylvera is expanding its ratings coverage across a breadth of project types with the launch of our IFM framework. The IFM framework was developed and stress-tested by Sylvera’s Ratings Framework Team. (Further details on the Sylvera framework creation process can be found in our Frameworks & Processes White Paper.)

What is Improved Forest Management (IFM)?

Improved Forest Management (IFM) projects can increase net carbon stocks or reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through changes in existing, or business as usual (BAU), forest management practices. Forest management activities could include rotation extension, thinning and change in harvesting techniques. Exactly which management activities are allowed in the projects is determined by registry methodologies. Uniquely, 93% of the issued IFM credits are from North American projects and 78% of all projects sit within the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) registry--and only 4% on Verra. North American, specifically Canadian and the United States, projects are prevalent because they are a legacy of the California compliance market and the compliance forest offset protocol or, California Air Resources Board (ARB).

For a deep dive into our IFM ratings framework, download the white paper

How Sylvera thinks about IFM credit quality

Sylvera develops project-type specific frameworks to capture material attributes of carbon projects and create comparable quality metrics that enable users to transact with confidence. Our IFM ratings synthesize data from diverse sources including: project documentation, multimodal remote sensing data, climate modeling, historic weather data, socioeconomic data, media sources, government policy documents, academic publications, and proprietary machine learning models. These data inform our sub-indicators that roll up into our Sylvera rating and core scoring pillars.

Sylvera rating process for IFM projects

Our rating is derived from a combination of carbon, additionality and permanence scores. These three core pillars are combined in a series of matrices to ensure that underperformance in one area does not get overshadowed by high performance in others. 

Carbon score

Our carbon score validates whether the project has delivered on its emissions reductions/removals by comparing Sylvera detected canopy cover and harvesting with data reported by the project. We leverage proprietary machine learning (ML) models and satellite data to track the performance of the project area, utilizing canopy cover changes associated with different forest management practices. 

Additionality

Sylvera’s additionality score assesses whether (1) emissions reductions above and beyond what would have occurred in the “business as usual” case have materialized as a direct result of revenue from carbon revenue and (2) the likelihood and severity of over-crediting risk that emanates from baseline quantification, gerrymandering or leakage. The additionality score is a blended view of whether the projects’ activities would only have taken place as a result of the offset project revenue (additionality of activities) and a measure of whether any additional climate benefit has been overstated in terms of crediting volume (over-crediting risk).

Permanence

Permanence refers to the risk that the avoided emissions will later be reversed and released back into the atmosphere. Our permanence score uses a risk matrix approach for each of the six major risks to carbon stock. The final score is calculated considering the additive and maximum risks present in the project. The input of climatic variables, record of past events, project specific conditions and mitigative activities are used to inform the risk scoring. We also consider the interactivity of any risks present. Permanence is conceptualized as a scale that distinguishes the relative degree of non-permanence (or reversal) risk between projects. 

Co-benefits

Sylvera’s co-benefits rating examines the extent to which the project is implementing activities to support local biodiversity and communities, as well as the scale and likely impact of these activities. IFM projects are managing an ecosystem, that background level of biodiversity can either be protected, promoted or come to harm as a result of project management activities. We use geospatial analysis and leverage our partnership with IBAT to assess the background level of biodiversity that is within the project area, using threatened species, biodiversity, and protected area data. When assessing community impact, we utilize data disclosed by project developers and the SDG framework to triangulate a project’s community impact. 

Download the white paper for a deep dive into our IFM framework.

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