Understanding Carbon Offsets

Plan Vivo System

Type of Standard and Context

Plan Vivo is an Offset Project Standard for forestry, agricultural and other land-use projects with a focus on promoting sustainable development and improving rural livelihoods and ecosystem services. Plan Vivo projects work closely with rural smallholders and communities and the standard emphasizes participatory design, ongoing stakeholder consultation, the use of native species, and biodiversity enhancement within a variety of payment for ecosystem service schemes – including carbon sequestration and emissions reductions. The Plan Vivo Foundation certifies and issues forward crediting (‘ex-ante’) and post-sequestration (‘ex-post’) offsets called ‘Plan Vivo Certificates’. Ex-post credits can be issued before third-party verification through the submission of an annual report.

The Plan Vivo System originated in 1994 as a pilot research project in Chiapas, Mexico, which aimed to develop a framework enabling smallholders to engage in carbon sequestration activities through accessing funds from carbon markets. This initial pilot project was spearheaded by the Edinburgh Centre of Carbon Management (ECCM, now a Camco company), El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR), the University of Edinburgh and AMBIO with funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The Plan Vivo system was developed by these partners using the pilot project’s example to shape program methodologies.

Program documents are available online and detail the standard requirements for both project developers, and project auditors.

Standard Authority and Administrative Bodies

Plan Vivo is currently managed by the Plan Vivo Foundation, a Scottish non-profit focused on environmental improvement and poverty reduction. The Foundation reviews and registers projects according to the Plan Vivo Standard, issues Plan Vivo Certificates annually following the submission and approval of each project’s annual report, and acts as overall ‘keeper’ of the Plan Vivo Standard which is periodically reviewed in consultation with the Technical Advisory Committee and Stakeholder Groups. It also approves third-party validators and verifiers and registers resellers of Plan Vivo Certificates.

Project Developers: Plan Vivo projects are developed and managed by a variety of different organizations, and are, primarily but not exclusively, a combination of international and locally-based NGOs who function as project developers (‘Project Coordinators’). They coordinate sales with carbon buyers, coordinate continued monitoring and community consultation and administer staged payments for ecosystem services to project participants based on achieved ‘monitoring targets’ laid out in the land-management plans (“Plan Vivos”).

Third Party Auditors: All Plan Vivo projects must be assessed by independent third parties, both for project validation before registration and project verification every 5 years thereafter. Validation & Verification Bodies (VVBs) must comply with requirements set-out in the Procedures Manual. Find information on validation and verification within the program documents, the list of approved VVBs here, and instructions for submitting a new VVB entity for approval.

Recognition of Other Standards/ Linkage with Other Trading Systems

Plan Vivo allows projects that may fit within other standards although projects must inform the Plan Vivo Foundation to ensure double-counting or duplicate claims of the ecosystem services generated by the project does not occur.