Speedinvest Blog

Making Carbon Offsets Verifiable: Our Investment in Sylvera

May 13, 2021

Pairing carbon sequestration with offset markets is our best bet to combat climate change

Heatwaves, wildfires, barren fields, floods and the rapidly advancing toxification of the world’s oceans; climate change is the one story of our lifetimes that no one can ignore. Unfortunately, no amount of emission reduction alone will be close to sufficient to prevent the impending climate catastrophe. 

The only truly scalable solution to this problem is also surprisingly low tech: reforestation. Carbon capture and sequestration by tree photosynthesis is the most effective strategy for limiting the rise in concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. When paired with an effective natural carbon offset market, this becomes a vital tool if we are going to be able to capture over 1000 gigatonnes of carbon over the next 80 years. Only then will we be able to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

In simple terms, buying a nature based carbon offset pays someone else to take a set amount of carbon out of the atmosphere by planting trees. While this approach is promising, it still has its problems.

Bringing reliable data (and trust) to nature-based carbon offset markets 

Like most asset markets, voluntary carbon offset markets have three participants: buyers, sellers and intermediaries. At the moment, all three are linked by an absence of trust. 

Sylvera provides a solution to the fact that offset projects are currently verified manually or not at all. So there is no reliable way to know if trees were really planted and actually grown; no way to know whether a project is non-performing or even fraudulent. This lack of dependable data leads to a lack of project finance for developers, limits new supply of carbon offsets, and leaves buyers vulnerable to exploitative brokers. 

To solve this, the company has teamed up with world-class climate researchers, such as NASA, UCL and the NCEO, and developed a methodology to build a carbon offset project overview that combines data from satellites, on the ground (such as forest inventory), the specific project and other publicly available biodiversity datasets. 

This enables them to show changes in a forest’s health over time without the need for manual due diligence, and creates a trust layer that connects all stakeholders in carbon offset markets. 

The same way you wouldn’t (or these days shouldn’t) invest in a company without a credit rating or financial statement, you no longer have to buy offsets without quantitative and qualitative assessment of their veracity. Sylvera augments the existing standards, helps the markets become efficient in delivering capital to projects and - as a result - protects and restores natural carbon sinks at gigatonne scale. 

The team to build it if ever there was one

It’s a cliche to conclude articles like these with heaps of praise for the founders that one has just backed. I will leave it at saying two things. First, having followed Allister and Sam’s journey since even before the inception of Sylvera, I can honestly say they are among the most mission-driven founders I have ever encountered. 

Sylvera team

Second, there are few founders who place such an emphasis on assembling a world class team around them. This not only applies to technical skills or policy expertise, but also to embracing the benefits of building a team with diverse perspectives and an inclusive working culture. The company currently has a 50/50 gender balance, employees from ten nationalities and vastly above average BAME and LGBT+ representation. Does this sound like something you want to be a part of? Check out Sylvera's open positions on our careers page.

In this particularly turbulent phase of the anthropocene, there is a quiet comfort in knowing that some of the smartest people are dedicating all their waking hours to solving something that will truly make a difference for all of us.

Sylvera in the news: Sifted

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