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Lion Landscapes goes 100% climate positive

“Our house is on fire.” Those were the words of climate activist Greta Thunberg in 2019, imploring all of us to do far more to address the existential threat posed by climate change. Her powerful words underlined the urgency of action and made many of us wonder what we could do to build a better future. In 2020, the Living Planet Report provided more grim warnings, this time around biodiversity loss. It revealed that on average, vertebrate population sizes had crashed by over two-thirds since 1970 – a staggering decline within many of our lifetimes. The primary driver was destruction and conversion of natural habitat. This mirrors what we see for lions: their numbers have nearly halved in 20 years, restricted to increasingly small and fragmented populations, with habitat loss the most important threat.

To address the intertwined threats of climate change and biodiversity loss we need to safeguard natural habitat, which stores carbon, supports incredible biodiversity, and ultimately underpins the health of our global society. Natural resources are particularly important for the world’s most vulnerable people, who could sustainably use them as a way out of poverty. But currently economic incentives, at both the local and global level, tend to reward habitat destruction rather than protection. This must change.

The scale of the challenge can seem overwhelming, but it is up to us to change the future. Firstly, we must reduce over-consumption. On our part, we have focused on being energy efficient, cutting charcoal use (a local driver of habitat destruction) and limiting our flights. Our field camps are very low impact, usually off-grid and powered by solar panels. Reduction is the first step towards limiting our environmental impact, but we must go further. We are therefore thrilled to announce that we have now gone 100% ‘climate positive’, using the groundbreaking ‘Lion Carbon’ model to offset double our carbon emissions annually.

Lion Carbon is an innovative premium carbon offset that simultaneously addresses climate change, landscape-level biodiversity conservation and local empowerment. It has been developed with BioCarbon Partners (BCP), one of Africa’s leading forest carbon offset developers, based on their REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) approach. BCP works in partnership with the Zambian Government and local communities to conserve forests under 30-year agreements. The value of carbon secured in those forests is calculated using the highest Verified Carbon Standards, and sold to companies and organisations who want to offset their own emissions. This is generating a new and highly valuable income stream for sustainable development and forest conservation, which is particularly important since COVID-19 revealed the fragility of relying on external users such as tourists.

Community protected mature forest storing carbon dioxide and providing REDD+ Lion Carbon offsets, from BCP.
Community protected forest storing carbon dioxide and providing REDD+ offsets. Photo credit: Ed Selfe Photography.

BCP’s gold-standard carbon offsetting has already had impressive results. It has protected over half a billion trees across a million hectares of community forest, and is reducing emissions equivalent to 1.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. That is the same as removing around 290,000 cars from the road a year. In 2020-2021, BCP’s REDD+ programmes generated over US$4 million in direct payments to 12 chiefdoms for the protection of wildlife habitat, improving the lives of over a quarter of a million people. This makes BCP’s REDD+ projects the biggest in the world in terms of community beneficiaries.

Providing fresh water, community benefits and sustainable conservation agriculture techniques. Photo credit: BioCarbon Partners

But carbon offsets could conceivably lead to ‘empty forests’, with incentives to secure carbon but not biodiversity. To address this, wildlife conservation is a key component of the Lion Carbon model, with BCP working closely with government departments, local communities and Lion Landscapes to monitor, conserve and help regenerate wildlife in the community forests, with a particular focus on lions as flagship species.

Lion Carbon activities are helping safeguard a vast biodiversity corridor in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, connecting Four Key Landscapes for Conservation and regenerating wildlife populations in some of the most important lion range left on the planet. Additionally, a small percentage of the revenue from Lion Carbon helps fund our wider work to conserve lions in key landscapes across Africa. Investing in Lion Carbon means that people and organisations can offset their carbon, helping limit climate change, secure lions and other biodiversity, and generate a reliable income stream for local people.

But rather than just ask others to invest in Lion Carbon, we decided that we should lead by example and do it ourselves. We are therefore exited that as of this International Day of Forests, Lion Landscapes is now 100% ‘climate positive’, using Lion Carbon to offset double our annual carbon emissions. We are the first conservation organisation to do so, but hope we will be the first of many.

The 2020 Living Planet Report highlighted that ‘World leaders must take urgent action to protect and restore nature as the foundation for a healthy society and a thriving economy.’ We agree, but such action should not be restricted world leaders. Every one of us, including individuals, grassroots organisations, large NGOs and businesses, can and should take urgent action. Lion Landscapes’ role in the development of Lion Carbon, and our move to ‘100% climate positivity’, are important steps towards our vision of fighting climate change by helping to build vast healthy ecosystems with thriving human communities and biodiversity, including the African lion.

Lioness living in Lion Carbon protected forest (Ed Selfe Photography).
Lioness living in Lion Carbon protected forest (Ed Selfe Photography).

Climate change is a global problem that requires individual action. Every person reading has the power to do a ton of good for our planet and each other. If you are thinking of offsetting your own Carbon footprint, consider using Lion Carbon for our planet and wildlife.

Happy International Day of Forests!

Forest in Luangwa Valley, storing carbon dioxide and providing REDD+ Lion Carbon offsets. Photo credit: BCP.

Lion Carbon Funding

The Lion Carbon conservation activities have so far been supported by The Darwin Initiative, University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, the Lion Recovery Fund and National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative. Revenue from the sale of Premium Lion Carbon offsets will gradually decrease dependency on donor funds and make these wildlife conservation activities sustainable.

Logos Lion Carbon supporters

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