InfiniteEARTH’s Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve in Borneo has become the world’s first REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) forest conservation project to independently verify its contributions to environment, biodiversity and social SDGs under the newly created Sustainable Development Verified Impact Standard (SD VISta).
SD VISta was developed by Verra, a leading standards organization created to help countries, the private sector, and civil society to achieve ambitious sustainable development and climate action goals.
SD Vista enables projects to assess the sustainable development benefits they generate directly against the SDGs. Under SD VISta, projects must demonstrate to the satisfaction of a third-party assessor that they advance the SDGs. By successfully completing the SD Vista audit, Rimba Raya now brings a new level of quality assurance and transparency to the reporting of its project outcomes and impact claims.
Since 2009, the Rimba Raya project has successfully defended 64,500 hectares of carbon- and biodiversity-rich lowland peat forest from conversion to oil palm plantations, which surround the project area and the adjacent Tanjung Puting National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Rimba Raya protects over 120 threatened and endangered species in the project area and supports over 10,000 forest-dependent community members living in and along the boundaries of the project, who have traditionally held no formal land tenure. The project has been developed and managed since inception by InfiniteEARTH, a pioneering conservation project developer.
Oil palm concessions, which completely surround Rimba Raya and Tanjung Putting and which have destroyed 2.4 million hectares of Borneo’s forests since 2000, had been granted for the entire project area before the project successfully halted them. In recognition of the project’s success in halting deforestation, it achieved verification as a REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) project, under which it has generated over 33 million tonnes of verified CO2 emissions reductions since the start of the project. These verified emissions reductions are sold to corporations which voluntarily offset their unavoidable emissions as well as support meaningful social and biodiversity co-benefits.
Among these co-benefits, SD VISta auditors have verified Rimba Raya’s numerous contributions to the SDGs, including:
- Mangrove restoration and peat swamp reforestation: Rimba Raya has carried out significant restoration activities, providing educational opportunities, strengthening community resilience and capacity to respond to climate change, contributing to gainful employment throughout the project zone, increasing habitat for endangered species, and improving the integrity of water-related ecosystems. SD Vista auditors verified that that these activities will directly contribute to net positive impacts for SDGs 4, 13, 14, 15 and, indirectly, 6, 8 and 11.
- Orangutan Care Facility: A portion of the revenues from the sale of the project’s carbon credits are used to fund project partner Orangutan Foundation International’s ongoing activities, including new programs for reforestation of critical orangutan habitats and acquisition of viable habitat. In addition, the project will build three new orangutan release centers and six feeding platforms at strategic locations inside the Project Area. The auditors verified that this activity will generate net positive impacts for SDGs 11 and 15.
- Scholarships: A portion of the revenue from the sale of the project’s carbon credits goes toward educational scholarships, to create opportunities for students from less fortunate families to continue their education to senior high school level or equivalent for a period of 3 years. Auditors verified that these activities generate net positive impacts for SDG 4 through the increase in availability of higher education opportunities for children throughout the project zone.
- Floating Clinic: With a total absence of health care available in the project’s remote villages, the project constructed and operates a floating clinic, giving it the ability to deliver medical services up and down the Seruyan River, effectively servicing all the communities in the Project Zone. Auditors confirmed that this activity will directly contribute to net positive impacts for SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-being.
“Buyers, now more than ever, seek projects that satisfy both environmental and social development goals. The SD VISta standard provides buyers of credits with a new standard to discern the specific impacts of a project.” said InfiniteEARTH Co-Founder Jim Procanik
“This is a crucial milestone. By completing the registration and successful verification of monitored results under SD VISta, Rimba Raya has demonstrated how projects can track progress against the SDGs in a rigorous and workable manner”, states David Antonioli, CEO of Verra. “Many corporations who rely on carbon credits to meet ambitious climate goals value knowing that the carbon credits they purchase and retire have additional benefits beyond reducing emissions – and Rimba Raya’s SD VISta certification demonstrates that this project has accomplished that.”