Verified Carbon Standard

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Verified Carbon Standard
Formation2005
TypeNonprofit 501(c)(3)
PurposeA carbon accounting standard and organisation.
HeadquartersWashington, D.C.
CEO
David Antonioli
Websitehttps://verra.org/

The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), formerly the Voluntary Carbon Standard,[1] is a standard for certifying carbon credits to offset emissions.[2][3] VCS is administered by Verra, a 501(c)(3) organization.[4] Verra is the world's biggest certifier of voluntary carbon offsets.[5] As of 2020 there were over 1,500 certified VCS projects covering energy, transport, waste, forestry, and other sectors.[6] In 2021 Verra issued 300 MtCO2e worth of offset credits for 110 projects.[7]: 37  There are also specific methodologies for REDD+ projects.[6] Verra is the program of choice for most of the forest credits in the voluntary market, and almost all REDD+ projects.[8]

Verra was developed in 2005 when carbon markets investment advisory firm Climate Wedge and its partner Cheyne Capital designed and drafted the first version (version 1.0) of the Voluntary Carbon Standard, intended as a quality standard for transacting and developing "non-Kyoto" Protocol carbon credits.

There are controversies around this standard and how it is implemented: In 2023, an investigation by The Guardian, Die Zeit, and SourceMaterial, a non-profit investigative journalism outlet, found that about 94% of the rainforest carbon offsets certified by Verra are worthless and that the standard may worsen climate change.[9] In May 2023, following months of criticism towards Verra in its handling of carbon-offsetting, CEO David Antonioli resigned.[10]

Usage in voluntary carbon markets[edit]

Verra was developed in 2005. It is a widely used voluntary carbon standard. As of 2020 there had been over 1,500 certified VCS projects covering energy, transport, waste, forestry, and other sectors.[11] In 2021 Verra issued 300 MtCO2e worth of offset credits for 110 projects.[12]: 37  There are also specific methodologies for REDD+ projects.[11] Verra is the program of choice for most of the forest credits in the voluntary market, and almost all REDD+ projects.[13] There have been criticisms of this program. As a result, Verra will replace its current rules for forestry projects with new rules from 2025 onwards.[14] General Verra A standards cover the types of projects allowed. They also cover allowable project start dates and project boundaries. They provide for a 10-year crediting period and require the project boundaries to cover all primary effects and significant secondary effects. Verra has additional criteria to avoid double counting. It also has requirements for additionality. It prohibits negative impacts on sustainable development in the local community.[15] Its accounting principles include relevance, completeness, consistency, accuracy, transparency, and conservativeness.[16]

Development[edit]

In 2005, carbon markets investment advisory firm Climate Wedge and its partner Cheyne Capital designed and drafted the first version (version 1.0) of the Voluntary Carbon Standard, intended as a quality standard for transacting and developing "non-Kyoto" Protocol carbon credits. Those were voluntary carbon emissions reductions from greenhouse gas reduction projects that met the quality and verification standards of the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) carbon offset mechanism, but were not eligible. The reasons for being not eligible were due to geographic or timing constraints of the Kyoto rulebook (e.g. carbon offset projects in the USA, Hong Kong, Turkey, etc that were not eligible for the CDM).[citation needed]

In March 2006, Climate Wedge and Cheyne Capital transferred the Voluntary Carbon Standard version 1.0 to The Climate Group, International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) and World Economic Forum. They also provided the initial sponsor capital for these non-profit organizations to subsequently convene a team of global carbon market experts to further draft the VCS requirements. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) joined later on. The team later formed the VCS Steering Committee, which worked to draft the second and subsequent versions of the VCS Standard.[citation needed]

In 2008, the Board of Directors named David Antonioli the organization’s first Chief Executive Officer. In 2009, VCS incorporated in Washington D.C. as a non-profit non-governmental organization.[citation needed]

On February 15, 2018, the organization that maintains the Verified Carbon Standard changed its name from Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) to Verra.[17] The new name was chosen to suggest "‘verification’ and ‘terra’, and reflects the fundamental nature of our work".[18]

In May 2023, following months of criticism towards Verra in its handling of carbon-offsetting, CEO David Antonioli resigned.[10]

Controversies[edit]

A 2021 study by The Guardian newspaper and Unearthed reported that Verra’s carbon offsetting standard was flawed. Accredited forest protection projects were using inconsistent predictive methods and overstating their emissions reductions. 11 of the 12 projects studied showed no difference in emissions compared to control groups. The study said the findings raised doubts about the validity of the carbon offsetting market.[19]

A nine-month investigation published on January 18, 2023 by The Guardian, Die Zeit, and SourceMaterial, a non-profit investigative journalism organization, found that approximately 94% of the rainforest carbon offsets provided by Verra – which accounted for about 40% of all credits it approved – are worthless. They also found that the credit scheme may worsen global heating and that the deforestation threat for Verra projects was overstated by 400% on average. At one of Verra's project sites in Peru, residents complained about being forcefully evicted from their homes, which were then demolished. The investigation was based on two peer-reviewed studies, one by a group of University of Cambridge scientists and the other from a team of international researchers.[9]

In 2024, a Channel 4 documentary highlighted these concerns alongside claims from Human Rights Watch that it was investigating a Verra carbon reduction project where Indigenous Cambodians lived in fear of homes and farmland being destroyed by armed rangers.[20]

Concerns with forestry projects[edit]

Forestry projects have faced increasing criticism of their integrity as offset or credit programs. A number of news stories in 2021–2023 have criticized nature-based carbon offsets, the REDD+ program, and certification organizations.[21][22][23] In one case it was estimated that around 90% of rainforest offset credits of the Verified Carbon Standard are likely to be "phantom credits".[24]

Tree planting projects in particular have been problematic. Critics point to a number of concerns. Trees reach maturity over a course of many decades. It is difficult to guarantee how long the forest will last. It may suffer clearing, burning, or mismanagement.[25][26] Some tree-planting projects introduce fast-growing invasive species. These end up damaging native forests and reducing biodiversity.[27][28][29] In response, some certification standards such as the Climate Community and Biodiversity Standard require multiple species plantings.[30] Tree planting in high latitude forests may have a net warming effect on the Earth's climate. This is because tree cover absorbs sunlight. This creates a warming effect that balances out their absorption of carbon dioxide.[31] Tree-planting projects can also cause conflicts with local communities and Indigenous people. This happens if the project displaces them or otherwise curtails their use of forest resources.[32][33][34]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Peters-Stanley, Molly (2011-03-15). "Regulators Embrace Voluntary Carbon". Ecosystem Marketplace. Retrieved 2018-09-17.
  2. ^ "Verified Carbon Standard". Verra. Retrieved 2018-09-17.
  3. ^ "Patch | Carbon Offset Verification and Registries, Explained". www.patch.io. Retrieved 2021-12-18.
  4. ^ "Who We Are". Verra. Retrieved 2018-09-17.
  5. ^ Greenfield, Patrick (2023-03-10). "As carbon offsetting faces 'credibility revolution', shoppers should be wary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2023-09-18.
  6. ^ a b "Methodologies". Verra. Retrieved 2023-03-24.
  7. ^ State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2022. World Bank. 2022. doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-1895-0 (inactive 31 January 2024). hdl:10986/37455. ISBN 9781464818950. Retrieved 24 March 2023.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of January 2024 (link)
  8. ^ Chagas, Thiago; Galt, Hilda; Lee, Donna; Neeff, Till; Streck, Charlotte (2020). A close look at the quality of REDD+ carbon credits (PDF). Climate Focus. Page 5.
  9. ^ a b Greenfield, Patrick (2023-01-18). "Revealed: more than 90% of rainforest carbon offsets by biggest certifier are worthless, analysis shows". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2023-09-16.
  10. ^ a b Greenfield, Patrick (2023-05-23). "CEO of biggest carbon credit certifier to resign after claims offsets worthless". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2023-05-24.
  11. ^ a b "Methodologies". Verra. Retrieved 2023-03-24.
  12. ^ State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2022. World Bank. 2022. doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-1895-0 (inactive 31 January 2024). hdl:10986/37455. ISBN 9781464818950. Retrieved 24 March 2023.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of January 2024 (link)
  13. ^ Chagas, Thiago; Galt, Hilda; Lee, Donna; Neeff, Till; Streck, Charlotte (2020). A close look at the quality of REDD+ carbon credits (PDF). Climate Focus. Page 5.
  14. ^ Greenfield, Patrick (2023-03-10). "Biggest carbon credit certifier to replace its rainforest offsets scheme". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2023-03-24.
  15. ^ "Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Offsets". Carbon Footprint. Retrieved 2023-03-24.
  16. ^ VCS Standard (PDF) (Report). 4.4. Verra. 2022. p. 4. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  17. ^ Zwick, Steve (2018-02-15). "Verified Carbon Standard Changes Name To Verra".
  18. ^ "VCS is now Verra". Verra. 2018-02-15. Retrieved 2024-01-15.
  19. ^ Greenfield, Patrick (2021-05-04). "Carbon offsets used by major airlines based on flawed system, warn experts". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2023-09-16.
  20. ^ "Change Climate Season: Leading carbon offsetting certifier investigated in new Channel 4 documentary The Great Climate Scandal | Channel 4". www.channel4.com. Retrieved 2024-04-23.
  21. ^ "Carbon offsets used by major airlines based on flawed system, warn experts". the Guardian. 2021-05-04. Retrieved 2022-12-31.
  22. ^ Temple, L.; Song, J. (29 April 2021). "The Climate Solution Actually Adding Millions of Tons of CO2 Into the Atmosphere". ProPublica. Retrieved 2022-12-31.
  23. ^ Astor, Maggie (2022-05-18). "Do Airline Climate Offsets Really Work? Here's the Good News, and the Bad". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-12-31.
  24. ^ Greenfield, Patrick (18 January 2023). "Revealed: more than 90% of rainforest carbon offsets by biggest certifier are worthless, analysis shows". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 February 2023. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  25. ^ "How Do You Guarantee Land-Based Offsets Are Permanent? | Greenbiz". www.greenbiz.com. Retrieved 2023-03-29.
  26. ^ "Planting trees "doesn't make any sense" in the fight against climate change say experts". Dezeen. 2021-07-05. Retrieved 2023-03-29.
  27. ^ "Planting invasive species could make our carbon problem worse". Popular Science. 2020-05-29. Retrieved 2023-03-29.
  28. ^ Veldman, Joseph W.; Overbeck, Gerhard E.; Negreiros, Daniel; Mahy, Gregory; Le Stradic, Soizig; Fernandes, G. Wilson; Durigan, Giselda; Buisson, Elise; Putz, Francis E.; Bond, William J. (2015). "Where Tree Planting and Forest Expansion are Bad for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services". BioScience. 65 (10): 1011–1018. doi:10.1093/biosci/biv118.
  29. ^ Aguirre-Gutiérrez, Jesús; Stevens, Nicola; Berenguer, Erika (2023). "Valuing the functionality of tropical ecosystems beyond carbon". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 38 (12): 1109–1111. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2023.08.012. PMID 37798181.
  30. ^ "Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standards". Carbon Offset Guide. Retrieved 2023-03-29.
  31. ^ "Climate change could expand forests. But will they cool the planet?". www.science.org. Retrieved 2023-03-29.
  32. ^ Bourke, India (2021-11-18). ""A further act of colonisation": why indigenous peoples fear carbon offsetting". New Statesman. Retrieved 2023-03-29.
  33. ^ Fleischman, Forrest; Basant, Shishir; Chhatre, Ashwini; Coleman, Eric A; Fischer, Harry W; Gupta, Divya; Güneralp, Burak; Kashwan, Prakash; Khatri, Dil; Muscarella, Robert; Powers, Jennifer S; Ramprasad, Vijay; Rana, Pushpendra; Solorzano, Claudia Rodriguez; Veldman, Joseph W (2020-09-16). "Pitfalls of Tree Planting Show Why We Need People-Centered Natural Climate Solutions". BioScience. doi:10.1093/biosci/biaa094. ISSN 0006-3568.
  34. ^ Cadman, Tim; Hales, Robert (2022-06-01). "COP26 and a Framework for Future Global Agreements on Carbon Market Integrity". The International Journal of Social Quality. 12 (1): 85. doi:10.3167/IJSQ.2022.120105. hdl:10072/422013. ISSN 1757-0344.

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