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BwB Talk Series: Kirsty Schneeberger | Climate Impact Partners

The BwB Talk Series is where we bring innovative leaders in impact, finance, and the environment to speak with our network around the world. The BwB Talk Series helps generate new ideas for our network by bringing experts to share their deep knowledge of sustainability topics.

Kirsty Schneeberger is the Head of Partnerships at Climate Impact Partners, a firm that specializes in carbon market solutions for climate action. Climate Impact Partners has partnered with more than 600 projects globally with the aim of reducing emissions through carbon finance. Kirsty Schneeberger presented her talk titled, “Voluntary Carbon Markets”.

“People understand the issue in a way that none of us have seen in the last 20 years. That public awareness, that groundswell of momentum, will do nothing but continue to build. There have been moments that have felt like an uphill battle because the wider messages were not reaching the public. Now, there is no going back. We have crossed over into a brave world where we will continue to progress towards our climate goals.”

- Kirsty Schneeberger

Core take-aways from Kirsty Schneeberger’s presentation mentioned:

  • There is continued growth in corporate climate actors. The wider context of this discussion is that as of 2022, 42% of the Fortune Global 500 have delivered or are committed to deliver a significant climate milestone by 2030, but 37% have yet to make any significant climate commitment. When we look back nearly two decades to the year 2005, we see that there has been a positive shift because an increasing number of companies are making these commitments.

  • Government commitments alone will not solve the crisis. When it comes to what governments are doing to tackle the climate crisis, the international climate conference COP27 brought up pressing issues on: (1) Loss and Damage funds, (2) the 1.5°C temperature goal, (3) Adaptation financing, (4) the issue of phasing out all fossil fuels, and (5) negotiations around Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. What we continue to see is that climate issues are complicated, interconnected, and require significant coordinated effort from governments to take on.

  • Improvements in best practices and standards. There are initiatives that are shaping the Voluntary Carbon Market, with market developments strengthening quality and integrity. The “Science Based Targets Initiative” (SBTi) is an organisation that drives ambitious corporate climate action and is about aligning market activity with the science. “The Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative" and “The Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market” both look at the integrity of a corporate claim - ensuring there is integrity in the claim and the intentions of the firm. The last initiative is SBTi’s “Net Zero Standard”, which is about developing a common understanding and common principles around net zero in the corporate context.

  • There are different types of verified offset projects and exciting technologies. Climate Impact Partners builds long term relationships with their partners to develop new projects, support and scale existing projects, and deliver high quality solutions. Their projects are categorized as “Nature-Based Solutions”, “Health and Livelihoods”, and “Sustainable Infrastructure”. Furthermore, there are new emerging technologies. These include various options for GHG capture and geological storage, and Nature-Based Solutions for marine ecosystems.

One of the most interesting segments of our Talk Series is the Q&A session between our speaker and BwB. This talk’s Q&A segment was filled with insightful moments, a few of which we have captured below.

Harry Wain, an Analyst at BwB, kicked off the Q&A discussion with a question about integrating biodiversity aspects into carbon credits. He asked, “How can it be accounted for and how can it be successfully integrated?”. Kirsty responded that there are two emerging trends in the market. Firstly, as part of Climate Impact Partners’ Nature-Based Solutions project development, they already incorporate biodiversity enhancement and restoration into their projects. At the moment, there are standards that already exist that help measure and account for that. If one is a buyer of a carbon credit, one might look for a biodiversity co-benefit. For example, under the Community Climate and Biodiversity framework there is a methodology for accounting for the community and the biodiversity benefit in the project. Currently in the market, that does exist. Secondly, what also exists and is exciting, is an additional parallel market looking specifically at biodiversity credits, tokens, or units. Kirsty partners with groups that are testing new ways for measuring and accounting for biodiversity benefits beyond a climate or carbon lens, for the sake of nature itself. An important thing to consider is that the carbon market was largely developed out of the idea of off-setting your harm – compensating for carbon-intensive activity by investing in projects that sink existing atmospheric carbon or prevent carbon release. That fungibility is one of the bases for a functioning carbon market. Biodiversity on the other hand, is not fungible in the same way – you cannot offset a bird for a frog. That parallel biodiversity market that is developing is distinguishing that feature in the market design itself. That biodiversity market is focusing on “doing good”, rather than the “offsetting of harm”.

BwB Ambassador Glenn Woodcock, Founder at Global City Futures, was intrigued by a phrase mentioned during the presentation, “co-benefit”. The phrase was mentioned in the context of Nature-Based Solutions. He asked, “Do you think that it will become more important for carbon credits to not only cover carbon, but also other elements like social benefits derived from those same resources?”. Kirsty felt that this was the case, and that “co-benefit” indeed has specific connotations associated with it. When Climate Impact Partners are working with projects involving local communities and stakeholders, these communities are at the heart of the work. The idea that carbon is the only factor is not the way to approach the issue. Kirsty is excited about the development of a parallel but complimentary “nature” market that looks at natural capital, biodiversity, or ecological services that nature provides. When one is looking at market design, asking “How are we integrating local communities, how are we making the right trade-offs when there is limited land available?”, these are all important questions. This also highlights why Blue Carbon is unique, with marine nature-based solutions you are not competing for land use. Not only does Blue Carbon have a high potential for carbon sequestration, but we can also involve coastal communities with creating other co-benefits and livelihood co-benefits. So, yes, we do need to think of these as equally important issues, the question is how do we design the infrastructure to ensure these issues are receiving fair prominence and project funding.

Stephen Smith (BwB’s Managing Director, Global Head Carbon & Forestry) shared that “carbon” in financial terms is liquid, interchangeable, and an easily understandable product on the market – unlike “biodiversity”, where each species is unique and irreplaceable in the ecosystem. With this comment, his question to Kirsty was “How are we going to measure biodiversity and monetize it?”. Kirsty’s response was that valuing a species – in carbon terms and in intrinsic terms – is an interesting consideration. Apex species are important in carbon terms, but also in financial terms. The calculation and measurement of ecosystem services is reasonably well developed. It enables us to understand the financial value of, for example, a mangrove forest, and the value it provides against coastal erosion. Without the mangrove forest, governments will bear the costs from the coastal erosion. We can compare those incurred losses to the cost of planting mangrove forests that will help avoid that economic strain. Taking this into the design and development of a biodiversity market is important – so that we consider other ecosystem services and do not only focus on the carbon.

Keep up to date with our BwB Talk Series on our LinkedIn and Twitter. The BwB Talk Series is done periodically through the BwB network and brings together innovative thought leaders to speak with stakeholders around climate and finance issues. The BwB Talk Series supports collaborative and iterative conversations with people worldwide. Please direct any questions or requests for additional information to or your usual BwB contact.

Bankers Without Boundaries, an innovator in finance, is a not for profit powered by former investment bankers to assist high impact projects that benefit the environment and social good.  BwB  works with local and sub- and national governments, cities, institutions, and foundations to mobilize capital advisory and research services. BwB  applies financial concepts and structuring to public projects to align them with the investment needs of capital markets, thinking about risk reduction, scaling and generation of financial returns alongside broader positive co-benefits and impacts. 


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