The Reykjavik Protocol
Our planet is in crisis. We must rapidly accelerate interventions to restore nature, remove carbon and other GHGs, and reduce biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation if humanity is to thrive and advance at present-day rates.
The need for large-scale interventions to restore the planet is consensus science, as stated in the IPCC’s Global Warming of 1.5C and Sixth Assessment reports. Drastic emissions reductions are critical. However, ten net gigatons of net carbon dioxide per year must be removed by mid-century to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Additionally, a wide range of solutions are necessary to protect critical ecosystems, enhance biodiversity, and provide security for our food systems. Without these positive interventions, the rapid and exponential decline of our planetary health will continue, leading to irreversible impacts to all life on earth.
We have a responsibility to act.
To reach our collective global climate goals, we must deploy scalable approaches that utilize the power of natural systems. Nature-deployed pathways are those that utilize and enhance natural processes to do some of the work of capture and create a positive environmental impact. They represent some of our best hopes for scalability.
The Intent of this Protocol
Today, credits generated by nature-deployed pathways carry structural risks, which currently limit widespread adoption when left unresolved. Current approaches designed to address these risks have been challenged by conflicts of interest, lack of flexibility that delays the emergence of new high-potential approaches, and an inability to integrate Best Available Science into credit issuance.
Unresolved, these issues impede the development of credible and large-scale environmental credit markets and impair meaningful climate action.
Organizations developing these projects (“Suppliers”) also face moral and scientific risks. While the Protocol may support the resolution of these risks, they are outside the scope of the Protocol itself:
This Protocol primarily addresses structural risk faced by suppliers and their supporters by providing a structure and set of Principles that can serve as a shared foundation for those generating environmental credits. By providing a set of Principles for how suppliers can responsibly bring their solutions to market and reduce industry-wide conflicts of interest, we aim to address the ineffective risk transfer that has hindered environmental markets, increase the quality and standardization of the assets produced, and enable the development of the market structures required to enable these solutions at scale.
We have an expectation that our methods will look antiquated to future generations; however, we know all complex and sophisticated systems must begin with simple systems that work.
To address the problems stated above, this Protocol has put forth an architecture for environmental credit generation, and accompanying Principles, for suppliers and counterparties to follow.
> Principle IV: Community Engagement
Suppliers will define key stakeholders likely to be materially impacted by the planned project. Prior to the start of any project operations likely to affect key stakeholders, suppliers will publish complete engagement plans. These plans must include a detailed description of activities to date which have resulted in project acceptability among stakeholders. Suppliers will publish periodic updates to their engagement plan.
> Principle V: Permission to Operate
Suppliers will comply with all applicable laws, duties and regulations. Compliance does not substitute for following the Best Available Science and the higher standard will be used.
> Principle VI: Baselines
Suppliers will measure and report socioeconomic and environmental project baselines prior to the start of project activities.
> Principle VII: Monitoring and Mitigation Plan
Suppliers will execute a monitoring and mitigation plan, which includes established baselines, covering all project impacts and risks. Project risks include risk of reversal, durability monitoring, shifting baselines, potential leakage, and delivery delay.
Monitoring and mitigation plans should be measured against controls and will be included in the data package reviewed by a third party or auditor for early and mature stage suppliers respectively.
> Principle X: Supplier Maturity and Progression
Suppliers are distinct entities from Independent Science Review Boards, Standards Developers, Regulators, Auditors, and Public Ledgers. As a best practice, suppliers should avoid contracting with market entities that fill multiple of these roles or benefit from perverse financial incentives due to inherent conflicts of interest*. All entities will transparently disclose these and any other implicit and explicit conflicts.
*There are inherent conflicts of interest within existing voluntary carbon market structures. It is the express intention of this protocol to identify and remove conflicts of interest throughout the credit generation process.
As a key pathway to reach the required scale and on the immediate timelines required, it is imperative that nature-deployed projects be effectively developed, managed, financed, and scaled.
While this Protocol does not attempt to define or approve specific project types that are eligible for environmental credits, suppliers and the market entities that enable their work are in a position of great risk and responsibility. Moving too fast with ineffective approaches or generating sub-par environmental credits risks delegitimizing the entire industry, while moving too slowly will lend credence to the view that these approaches are too difficult to scale. It is critical that we create a clearly defined market structure so the needed nature-deployed projects can develop and scale rapidly, with the flexibility to learn and iterate as the Best Available Science advances.
Suppliers signing the Reykjavik Protocol commit to implementing its principles for all their environmental credit generating activities within the next two years. Non-supplier organizations that sign the Reykjavik Protocol must adhere to the principles relevant to their role in the Credit Generation Value Chain.
Suppliers wishing to demonstrate adherence to this Protocol will self-report their credit generating activities against the Principles listed above. While this Protocol will not initially be hosted by an official governing body, proposed changes will be publicly available on an open source platform to encourage ongoing discussion, and Protocol Signatories will convene at least annually to update and approve changes based on community consensus.
Contributors to The Reykjavik Protocol
Maddie Hall, Founder & CEO of Living Carbon
Dan Harburg, PhD, CTO of Mombak
Mike Kelland, CEO of Planetary
Sir David King, FRS, FRSC, FInstP, Founder and Chair Climate Crisis Group & Founder of the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge
Ryan King, CCO of UNDO
Kate Moran, PhD, O.C, President of Ocean Networks Canada
Marty Odlin, Founder and CEO of Running Tide
Noah Planavsky, PhD, Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture and Cascade Climate
Akash Rastogi, Innovation and Commercialization Strategist, Ocean Frontier Institute
Bradley Rochlin, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Running Tide
Chris Tolles, Co-Founder and CEO of Yard Stick PBC
Mary Yap, Founder & CEO of Lithos Carbon