Introducing Treejer: Smart Climate Finance & Credit Management Protocol
Treejer (trēʒər) is an open-source and forest-based climate action protocol powered by blockchain technology. It enables transparent climate finance and credit management opportunities for individuals, businesses, NGOs and governments.
There's no doubt that our planet needs trees now more than ever. Tree planting pledges are getting more and more popular among companies and governments, but few have recognized the real challenges. The public is distracted by the moonshot goals without realizing how big some of those numbers are; 1B trees, 10B trees, 100B trees! Sometimes they pledge to plant billions of trees just because it's cooler than millions! Let me tell you the bitter truth. Many of those trees don't survive their first year even if they're really planted. What's the consequence? Misleading numbers in climate commitments that lay the foundation for much bigger problems!
Planting trees is not enough. The paradigm must shift to growing whether existing trees or new ones. It’s a lot easier to plant seeds than it is to grow trees. That's why we call everyone to stop planting trees if they can't track their growth. We call everyone to stop funding trees if they can't track the impact of their money. It's time to stop living in the past, it's 2020! we have the tools now!
In Sri Lanka, for example, none of the mangroves had survived in more than half of 23 surveyed tree planting sites. In only three sites, over 50% of seedlings survived. In another survey, only 20% survived across 74 mangrove sites in Thailand and the Philippines.
Such planting-focused projects are often victim to improper goals in which funders and planters are motivated by number of trees or the total area planted, instead of, say, survival rates after one year. This approach has probably led to mass plantings in unsuitable places with no follow-up care as well.
Why are companies and governments insisting on number of trees?
When it comes to tree planting pledges and green marketing campaigns, companies are obsessed with number of trees because they don't have anything better to offer to customers and the public. They donate a fortune to NGOs who (promise to) plant the trees and return a reasonable amount of story-telling opportunities. In other words, companies are often provided with a collection of photos and stories to be used for their social media and annual sustainability report, that's it!
The same story applies to governments. They regularly make commitment and pledges to plant X number of trees, most of the time, without any sustainable plan to maintain them. A recent example is the Trillion Trees initiative that urges communities and governments to make tree planting pledges. While these unifying initiatives are needed to raise awareness and boost partnerships, they're not enough to make a real impact. It's 2020, we have the right tools, science and a conscious generation that demands a more transparent, measurable and efficient Climate Action model.
I believe green washing and corruption in climate finance needs no explanation. It's just a google search away. No other technology can be more beneficial than blockchain in this topic. The least value it adds to climate finance is the ability to track money and it's impact. We need to understand what happens to our money when we fund a climate action project whether we pay $10 or $10M. This lays a foundation for further optimization of procedures and finance models for both service providers and funders. Corruption happens on international, national and local levels. No one knows how much money has been wasted through this since we didn't have the right tools to track funding and impact results so far.
Unlike many critics, we don't want to repeat the same problems without providing a sustainable and global solution. In fact, we've started building the solution! We love to help all those amazing initiatives become more transparent by enabling their users to track each single tree after they pay for it. The good news is that we're not here to compete with traditional projects. Treejer is an open protocol capable of benefiting most contributing partners in both demand and supply sides of tree planting; NGOs, businesses, governments and individuals.
Introducing Treejer Protocol
Treejer (trēʒər) is an open-source and forest-based climate action protocol powered by blockchain technology. It enables transparent climate finance and credit management opportunities for individuals, businesses, NGOs and governments. We are building Treejer to:
- Enable an open platform to track trees and their growth
- Increase demand for tree planting through gamification and seamless B2B integrations (green marketing opportunities)
- Increase survival rates of trees by focusing on tree growing instead of tree planting
- Reduce Climate Finance's costs by enabling bankless payments to rural communities and boost social impact by connecting funders to unbanked communities
- Create an open and transparent infrastructure for sourcing forest-based Climate Credits
- Create a decentralized and more globally accessible (voluntary) carbon market with the help of blockchain technology
Some of those objectives have already been achieved on testnet and the rest are under either development or research. The protocol is designed to be upgradeable with progressive decentralization in its governance.
In its simplest form, Treejer serves tree funders (demand side) and tree planters (supply side). Tree funders get their climate credit (Oxygen) after funding trees and planters get paid using the same funds after proving they've planted and maintained those trees.
Treejer's approach is to empower people to save the planet. Local communities are directly paid by individual or organizational funders to plant and maintain traceable trees.
1. Tree Funding
What happens to money after funding trees? If a tree is funded through any Treejer-powered interfaces like the one you see on Treejer Website, the money goes to a blockchain-based smart contract. The contract then distributes the money to respective addresses based on pre-defined terms. For instance, it hold a significant portion of the money in-escrow and sends it to planter wallets over time, after realizing planted trees are still alive. This proof-of-existence is initially done by Treejer's Ranger app, a simple blockchain oracle. Blockchain oracles provide external data to smart contracts. As the protocol and its underlying technologies advance, we work on enabling even higher levels of trust by connecting other sources of data. Satellite imagery, remote sensing and AI-powered algorithms have strong presence in Treejer's future.
1.1. Planter's Reward
Planters get 40% of total tree funding over a period of three years. During this period they need to give regular updates from trees to unlock the funds held in escrow. Once a tree's status is updated, a portion of the fund is unlocked. The first three years of a tree's life is critical to its survival, thus we need to ensure they're protected well when most vulnerable. Our team is working on more creative ways to incentivize communities to continue protecting trees after initial years. One concept we're working on is the zero-interest micro loans that are enabled by our local development fund. In fact, planters pay their loan's interest by showing they've maintained the trees they've planted.
1.2. Rural Ambassador's Reward
Rural (development) ambassadors are responsible to add new local communities to Treejer in the planting side. They visit rural areas and help local planters have better onboarding experience. They also provide additional services like converting planters' crypto-based rewards to national (fiat) currencies and goods.
1.3. Local Development Fund
Treejer's local development fund is designed to create a more sustainable economic development in rural areas by enabling automatic and recurring zero-interest micro loans and grants. The funds will be used to improve local sanitation, children's education, healthcare and local businesses. We are currently researching to eliminate some of the risks associated with this program including local currency devaluation (affecting micro-loan repayment rates), crypto-volatility, free-riders and sybil attacks. The protocol distributes the fund in two forms:
- Micro grants
- Zero-interest micro loans
1.4. Tree Rescue Fund
This fund enables a range of capacity-building activities in forest disaster management. The activities are mainly related to the following subjects in disaster management cycle:
- Prevention and mitigation
Disaster management aims to lessen, or avoid, the potential losses from hazards, assure timely and relevant assistance to victims of disaster, and achieve rapid and effective recovery. Appropriate actions at all aspects in the cycle lead to greater preparedness, better warnings, reduced vulnerability or the prevention of disasters during the next iteration of the cycle.
1.5. Tree Research Fund
The Rescue Fund enables scientific researches leading to the development of Treejer's smart carbon credit (O2). Currently, we're working on an open database of world trees that consists of tree species, regions and allometric equations. It's a vital part of Treejer's forest-based climate credit (o2).
1.6. Protocol and Ecosystem Development
This fund is mainly used for operational costs and partnership development for a period of three years. It's there to make sure we are able to further develop and introduce our solution to a wider community around the world. It's probable to reduce the fund's allocated percentage in the future as more trees are planted via Treejer.
2. Climate Credits
The protocol's climate credit is called Oxygen (O2). O2 is a smart carbon credit released from Treejer's traceable trees. In the future, users may spend O2 to offset their carbon footprint or sell it to other parties interested in carbon offsetting. O2 tokens are burned if used for carbon offseting. Some unique use-cases are under development!
2.1. Oxygen (O2)
O2 is released only if its reference tree is proved to exist. This proof-of-existence process is periodically conducted. Oxygen is designed to be one of the most accurately calculated carbon credits. That's why most of users' forests don't generate O2 right now. In fact, an O2-generating tree must meet both of the following criteria:
- Its existence must be proved periodically (to send periodical rewards to planters and climate credits to funders)
- Allometric equations of the tree's species must have been added to our World Tree Index before the status update (to enable tree-specific credit calculation)
If a tree is proved to exist (after a status update), but the allometric equation of its species is not yet added to the index, its captured carbon can't be calculated. However, once the index is updated with the respective equation, O2 is calculated from day one and added to affected users' forests.
2.2. OxygenBeta (O1)
To overcome the above-mentioned issue and provide a platform to test use-cases of O2, we've introduced OxygenBeta (O1). O1 is an arbitrary climate credit being released at the rate of
0.000001/s from each tree. It has no value, no ROI and no scientific relation to carbon storage! But it shows how certain features work in Treejer as we continue developing the protocol and prepare for a global smart carbon credit.
Disclaimer: These climate credits (O1 & O2) should not be used as investment tools. They impose significant risks to owners in that scenario. Moreover, OxygenBeta (O1) has no measurable or scientific relation to carbon storage in trees. It's an arbitrary climate credit to be used for testing use-cases until O2 is fully implemented and available to all.
Technically, both Oxygen and OxygenBeta are
ERC-20 tokens on the Ethereum blockchain. They're supplied by the trees planted through Treejer protocol. Each tree is an
ERC-721 non-fungible token (NFT). In other words, each tree is a collectible and has its own unique story recorded forever on blockchain. This has the potential to create endless opportunities for those who love to gift trees to their loved ones or even customers. Not only the gift recipient can own* the tree, but they can use the climate credits released by it. They just need to visit and connect to a Treejer-based interface like treejer.com
*Ownership refers to digital ownership of trees. It enables users to collect climate credits after funding trees. In real world, no one is the owner of Treejer trees since they become public goods as soon as they're planted.
3. Opportunities for Treejer Users
Treejer, as an open protocol, aims to enable various opportunities for individuals, businesses, NGOs and governments. Some of these opportunities are listed below:
3.1. For Businesses
- Run next-level green marketing campaigns in which customers get a self-owned traceable tree in a shareable link/QR code (It's basically a burner wallet containing NFT trees)
- Perform transparent and metric-based ESG activities (This includes, but is not limited to, adopting traceable forests, offsetting carbon footprint through smart credits and creating green jobs for local communities)
3.2. For Individuals
- Start a traceable forest with a few clicks
- Send traceable and self-owned trees to friends, family and loved ones as gifts
- Track tree growth after funding
- Know how their climate action funding is used
3.3. For NGOs
- Access to a new source of tree planting demand
- Upgrade their existing tree planting and payment management to a more transparent and efficient model
- Reduce costs of cross-border payments to tree planting sites
- Enable their existing clients to track each single tree
- Provide clients with digital collectible trees (non-fungible tokens)
3.4. For Governments
- Manage tree planting funding in a more efficient way
- Track trees and planting projects' status
- Boost social impact through community-driven reforestation/afforestation
- Measure the impact of their forest-based climate action
- Make more transparent and public tree planting pledges
- Engage people in national tree planting pledges and provide citizens with collectible trees in crowdfunded or co-financed campaigns
Treejer will begin with centralized control of the protocol, and over time, will transition to complete community control. Now we are able to upgrade the smart contracts, lock/unlock the smart contracts (to protect users' funds if an unexpected issue happens), whitelist planters and rural ambassadors (until we develop a Sybil-resistant system) and change universal tree price (until we enable a free market and price formula) in the system. In addition, we can withdraw funds from the following addresses:
- Protocol and Ecosystem Development
- Local Development Fund
- Tree Rescue Fund
- Tree Research Fund
We have no access to planters and rural ambassadors' rewards. They're the only ones who are able to withdraw (a portion of) funds after tree status updates.
In our journey towards full decentralization, we'll research and develop efficient and decentralized models for spending the money allocated to each of the above fund categories. The good news is that we've already started working on some of them. We're studying to enable Quadratic Funding to support our contributing scientists, using the Tree Research Fund. We're working on a smart and decentralized tree insurance scheme that uses blockchain oracle data (satellite data) to fund reforestation after forest disasters, using the Tree Rescue Fund. For the Local Development Fund, we're working on a DAO-based approach in which members vote to confirm micro loan and grant proposals from local communities. A number of other unique and innovative concepts are being studied to increase environmental and social impact of tree planting in less-developed countries.
However, we've decided to start with simpler version of the Treejer protocol. This helps us get feedback and probably expert insights from our community and future advisers at the right time. The journey towards full decentralization will probably take 2-3 years. In the meantime, we're able to better iterate on new and innovative concepts, safeguard users' funds (if a critical bug is found) and speed up development.
We're launching some of the essential modules in Treejer protocol on Ethereum testnet. Also, we're analyzing different scalability solutions for Treejer. Treejer probably remains on testnet until we realize there's a working and appropriate Layer 2 solution for it on Ethereum. It's a part of our efforts to reduce network fees and carbon footprint in the system.
If you love what we're doing at Treejer, you may consider contributing to our Gitcoin grant starting from September 14th. It's a new way to support open-source projects like Treejer!
Treejer is not funded by any VCs or grants, and we don't have any plans to distribute tokens to raise funds (at least now!). The project is shortlisted for an investment by UNICEF Innovation Fund but there's no guarantee for that at this moment. We love to keep this as community-friendly as possible. If you have any questions or would like to be a part of this movement, please join our community or contact us at [email protected]
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