V – Review of Plan Vivo Standard

Plan Vivo Standard

[Note: Information updated on 20th December 2009]

Plan Vivo was developed in Mexico in 1994 by the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management (ECCM), El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) and the University of Edinburgh. Plan Vivo was run by non-profit organization BioClimate Research and Development between 2002 and 2008. It has now been transferred to the charity Plan Vivo Foundation (Carbon Positive, 2009e).

The objective of the Plan Vivo standard is to certify land-use projects for their Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) (carbon, social and environmental impact) in rural communities by providing them with Plan Vivo certificates. The projects are usually implemented by rural communities and environmental NGOs that assist in alleviating poverty through engaging Indigenous People in ecosystem service markets and promoting sustainable use for their land. Projects tend to start in small-scale and then increase in size to include more communities, with land potentially reaching large scale (Merger, 2008). The project coordinator must be a non-governmental community-based organisation with strong links to local groups that will identify local farmers or groups that are eligible for certification (Plan Vivo Foundation, 2009).

The analysis below has been assessed from information available at the Plan Vivo website (Plan Vivo Foundation, 2009), the Plan Vivo System and Standards (Plan Vivo, 2008) and documentation from a project in Mexico (Ambio, 2008), a project in Uganda (Ecotrust, 2008) and a project in Mozambique (Envirotrade, 2008).

3 projects have been certified so far and another 6 projects are at some stage of the validation process.

Afforestation/ Reforestation      Score: 5

Plan Vivo accepts projects of afforestation, reforestation, agro-forestry, restoration, conservation and improved forest management; therefore it will receive the maximum score.

REDD     Score: 5

Plan vivo accepts REDD projects.

Location      Score: 3

Projects must be located in rural areas in developing countries.

Additionality       Score: 5

Plan Vivo provides general guidelines and does not suggest using the CDM additionality tool. However, projects must take place in rural areas with local communities that have no financial or technical capacity which minimises the risk of a project not being additional.

Plan Vivo scores 5.

Methodology Approved        Score: 3

Plan Vivo uses a different approach to approving projects. Each project must build its own methodology/ technical specifications according to the projects specifications. The technical specifications are developed by the project developer, submitted to the Plan Vivo Foundation and peer reviewed. The project developer may use expertise from consultants, research institutes or universities to develop the Technical Specifications.The technical specifications may include biomass surveys, baseline studies, biodiversity surveys, carbon modelling, advice on particular technical problems and provide training workshops for producers. The information can be derived from existing approved methodology or from IPCC or other recognised guidelines.The tools or technical specifications must be reviewed by an external expert and must be assessed by the Plan Vivo Technical Advisory Board.Third-party verifiers will assess projects based on the project design documentation against the requirements of Plan Vivo Standard within 5 years of project registration and at least every 5 years thereafter.Plan Vivo does not provide methodologies like other standards do. Each project must develop its own methodology that needs to be peer reviewed. One positive aspect is that the review is adapted to the characteristics of the project. However, this approach makes it difficult to understand what the minimum requirements for a Plan Vivo Standard are, as the amount of information available from project to project is not consistent. For these reasons, the methodology criterion receives 3 points.

Permanence       Score: 3

Risks are identified and a buffer zone must be implemented. The buffer zone must be at least 10% of the credits and the technical experts will determine if the project needs a bigger buffer zone.

From the three projects Plan Vivo has validated:

Uganda (since 2004): Project reports mention that the risk buffer still needs to be determined; the buyer may ask to have a risk buffer between 10-20%.

Mexico (since 2002): Very detailed risk assessment, including models to determine the buffer zone. A 50% buffer zone has been implemented.

Mozambique (since 2006): REDD project, the risk assessed use the CLIMAFOR method, calculations are also provided in the project documentation. A 15% buffer zone has been assessed.

From the three projects validated, only two projects provide adequate detail to ensure permanence is properly dealt with. The project in Uganda does not provide that insurance. For these reasons, Plan Vivo will only receive 3 points.

Leakage         Score: 2

Plan Vivo provides general guidelines to assess leakage. Only the project in Mozambique provides enough details about leakage. The projects in Mexico and Uganda only reference that leakage must be assessed without providing evidence that is has been assessed.

More details are needed to determine real leakage.

Co-benefits        Score: 4

Projects must provide several co-benefits to be approved such as:

– Biodiversity conservation

– Poverty reduction

– Restoration of degraded ecosystems

– Adaptation of natural and managed ecosystems to climate change

The co-benefits do happen due to the characteristics of Plan Vivo projects but they are not properly documented. For these reasons, Plan Vivo will not receive the highest score.

Registry      Score: 5

Plan Vivo now uses third party registry, for this reason it will score 5.

Transparency           Score: 3

Plan Vivo has now a new website with more information available about the projects. A unique characteristic from Plan Vivo is that it provides annual reports showing how the carbon finance is reaching communities.

The project websites do provide PDDs and Technical Specifications, but some projects still limited information about how the assessment was made (i.e. Risk Buffer in Uganda). There is no standard on the amount of information that has to be available on the website. Plan Vivo scores 3.

ICROA       Score: 1

Plan Vivo is not accepted by ICROA.

US Market      Score: 2

Some of the biggest buyers of Plan Vivo credits are based in the US, however Plan Vivo’s market share is still relatively low.


Plan Vivo scores 41, one of the lowest scores in the review that may be explained by the use of a different approach of validating carbon credits. As each project needs to produce its own methodology, Plan Vivo needs to have a closer relation with its project developer in order to assist them with this. Plan Vivo provides the contacts with experts from research institutes and universities to evaluate the projects. The project documentation is becoming more standardized now.

Plan Vivo’s objectives are altruistic and the projects certainly make a real difference in rural communities. In addition to the co-benefits, carbon reductions do occur, however their quantifications lack the general level of guarantee other standards provide.

Tools and guidelines that are more detailed and standardized are strongly advised in order to improve methodology, permanence, leakage, and co-benefits assessment.

Plan Vivo has now a new improved website with more detailed information available.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: