Natural Climate Solutions

Continuous deforestation in many parts of the world and the conversion of natural or semi-natural areas into usable areas are among the main drivers of climate change. According to the 2019 Special Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Climate Change and Land”, around 23% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions came from the AFOLU sector (Agriculture, Forest, and Other Land Use). In other words, unless we put a stop to continued deforestation and land degradation, it will not be possible to meet the 2°C target set in the Paris Agreement. Natural Climate Solutions (NCS) and the preservation of natural carbon sinks therefore are a key component in the fight against climate change.

Overview: Value Chain and Environmental Impacts – the Net-Zero Goal

  1. Baseline Emissions: Emissions during the base year (e.g. value chain, country etc.)
  2. Target Pathway: Development of GHG Emissions in accordance with the 1.5°C scenario.
  3. Remaining Emissions: Emissions remaining in the value chain in the target Net-Zero year (e.g. 2040)
  4. Reductions Target: Volume of CO2 emissions that need to be avoided in order to reach the Net-Zero target
  5. Emission Removals: Volume of GHGs that need to be sequestered into carbon sinks in order to meet the Net Zero target

Background: Natural Climate Solutions – Project Types

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+):
Generally, plants use photosynthesis to take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into biomass. This is known as sequestration, and forests in particular have a high sequestration rate per unit of area compared to other land uses and eco-systems. Continuous deforestation is one of the main causes of climate change. According to the UN, deforestation is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, just behind the energy sector. This makes it clear that, unless deforestation is brought to an end, it won’t be possible to meet the 2°C target set in the Paris Agreement.

This is what sets the background for the REDD+ Mechanism, which finds its roots in the voluntary market (e.g. Verified Carbon Standard) and later spread to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). REDD+ stands for„Reducing Emissions from Deforestation, Forest Degradation, and Enhancement of Forest Carbon Stocks” and is a framework designed to fight against climate change through the protection of forests and the expansion of carbon sinks. Without special protection, these forests would often be cut down or degraded through unsustainable use.

The aim of the REDD+ framework is to generate enough financial worth for healthy forests that they outcompete the potential profits made from cutting down the forests. Through this, an incentive is created for sustainable and responsible forest management.

Since REDD+ projects often cover a very large area, they usually offer a high volume of annual emission reductions relative to the project costs. In addition to this, the volumes are often available right from the project start. This is what primarily differentiates these projects from afforestation projects, which need to consider a significant lead time before emission reductions can result.
Afforestation / Reforestation
Afforestation projects function as natural carbon sinks. This effect comes though photosynthesis from the increase in biomass compared to the previous land use (e.g. grassland, agricultural use). Afforestation can aim to create a near-natural forest without the need to find further uses. However, itcan also be done using certain tree types so that the area can still be used for the commercial production of wood and other products, such as rubber or honey. An important aspect of afforestation projects is that they, in most cases, alleviate the pressure on natural forests, as they help to meet wood demand in a targeted and, where possible, sustainable manner. To be able to generate emission reductions, all climate protection projects need to certify their additionality. The project developer must prove that their activities would not have been financially feasible without the revenue from emission reduction certificates. Afforestation projects that are entirely economically driven (such as eucalyptus monocultures) in most cases will not be able to meet the additionality criteria. As a result, many environmentally driven afforestation projects plant a mixture of various indigenous species. This usually increases the environmental benefits. In order to measure and calculate the biomass and thus the sequestration capacity of the trees within the project, young trees have to first reach a specific size. It is because of this that afforestation projects require a lead time of a few years before they can be calculated. Unlike REDD+ projects, afforestation projects cover a smaller area and thus produce fewer emission reductions each year. The project type remains valuable, however, as a result of the good sequestration rates and the projects’ complementarity with REDD+ projects.
Improved Forest Management
In contrast to reforestation/afforestation projects, these types of projects are based in forests that are already standing. They focus on improving forest management with the aim of optimizing the carbon sequestration potential of the forest. This is mainly done through sustainable forest management practices. These increase the annual growth and make it possible to organize biomass extraction in a way that enables a net increase. This can be achieved through enrichment planting, improved harvesting methods or lengthening timber extraction cycles.

This kind of project is particularly relevant for countries where sustainable forest management is more important than avoiding deforestation. This is often the case when the forests are already legally and practically well-protected. Improved forest management is primarily for countries where the controlled, legal exploitation of lumber for commercial sale plays an important role, such as in the USA or Chile.
Blue Carbon Projects
This type of project has recently gained increasing interest. Blue Carbon Projects focus on the afforestation or protection of forests that are located directly on the coast. This predominantly involves the plantation or conservation of mangrove forests. Mangroves generally have a very high carbon storage capacity, mainly since they increase soil carbon stocks. Carbon storage in their own biomass is only secondary. Furthermore, mangrove forests are key to coastal protection as they provide an extremely biodiversity-rich habitat and offer a variety of ecosystem services to local people.

Key regions for the development of Blue Carbon Projects include the Caribbean, western Africa and South-East Asia.
Interventions in Agriculture
Alongside the energy, transport and industry sectors, agriculture is a key source of greenhouse gas emissions. The not only emissions come from intensive cattle farming, but also from things such as fertilizers, soil use and land conversion.  The intervention possibilities are relatively diverse when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector.

Related projects can, for example, include maintaining carbon sinks, promoting sustainable agricultural practices, or reducing nitrogen emissions through better management of fertilizers. First Climate Switzerland runs a unique global program that brings environmentally friendly fertilizers to the market at a reduced price in order to increase their market share. Find out more here >>

Another First Climate program involves the production and dissemination of biochar, which enables long-term carbon storage on agricultural land. The project is certified according to the ISO 14064-2 standard and is among the few emission reduction projects in western Europe that provide emission reductions to the voluntary carbon offset market. Find out more here >>

Intervention in Agriculture Projects also include other projects such as ones which focus on improved agricultural land management, sustainable land conversions or efficient plantations.

On the way to Net-Zero

The Paris Agreement and the importance of natural carbon sink projects

The Paris Agreement in 2015 defines the guidelines for international climate protection. One of the decisive measures that can be derived from the agreement is the requirement that a climate-neutral economy becomes a reality by 2050 at the latest. The goal “Net-Zero” is for emissions at a state level or within corporations. The Science Based Targets initiative and CDP have commented in their own publications as to how this goal could be achieved. According to the defined target path, companies should first set themselves a science-based climate target and then reduce all avoidable emissions that arise from their business operations.

Remaining emissions can then be offset through emission reduction projects, particularly. Carbon sink projects will receive greater priority in the future. However, both CDP and the Science Based Targets Initiative recognize that, in order to achieve the climate targets, at least for a longer transition phase, emission reductions from renewable energy and other project types should also be permitted.

For practical implementation on a company level, a dual strategy is in many cases appropriate. For short-term effective compensation of residual emissions, certified emission reductions from existing projects can be obtained on the voluntary market. At the same time, companies can develop their own projects, which can then be used in the medium and long term to cover the need for emission reductions.

First Climate enables your engagement with Natural Climate Solutions

First Climate is your partner for achieving sustainable carbon management with the help of Natural Climate Solutions. We enable you to gain emission reduction certificates from high quality forestry protection or afforestation projects across the world. Take advantage of our experience to develop and implement your own Natural Climate Solution projects. These would then be available for your own exclusive use. Developing your own project can underline the credibility of your environmental commitments.

Going climate-neutral with natural carbon sink projects

Climate protection by supporting existing projects

For short-term, effective compensation of greenhouse gas emissions, companies can procure emission reduction certificates from climate protection projects through a spot transaction.

First Climate has an international network of projects and close relationships with developers of natural climates solution projects across the world. As a result, we can offer you high quality emission reductions from all relevant project areas: North and South America, Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceania.

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Developing new Climate Protection Projects

First Climate has over 15 years of experience in the development of Natural Climate Solution projects and has within this time enabled many well-known international companies to implement their own climate protection goals through the demand-based generation of emission reductions from their own projects.

We offer all relevant services as a one-stop-shop solution; from strategy development for detailed project planning, right up to the implementation of your own forestry-based climate protection projects.

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Karte der REDD+ Projekte


Contact and Information:



Dr. Jochen Gassner
Tel.: +49 6101 55 658 55