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Global benchmark launches to define what ‘high quality’ carbon credits are

Approved high-quality carbon credits will be available to buyers by the end of the year, according to the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market.

carbon market diversification
A robust voluntary carbon market plays an important role in mobilise significant amounts of finance, harness private capacity, and empower communities to benefit from mitigation actions. Image: Loïc Manegarium via Pexels. CC BY NC-ND 2.0 

A new benchmark has launched to bring more clarity to the definition of a high-quality carbon credit, which companies are increasingly using to offset their climate impact. 

On Thursday (28 July), the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM), a governance body for the voluntary carbon market, released a global benchmark for high-integrity carbon credits, with the aim of bringing more transparency to how carbon offsetting contributes to global climate goals. 

The US$2 billion voluntary carbon market has faced major reputational issues this year following media reports that questioned the effectiveness of carbon projects at removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The price of carbon has tumbled as a result, prompting some observers to question whether the voluntary carbon market has a viable future.

The framework that ICVCM will use to assess whether carbon credits meet its high-integrity Core Carbon Principles (CCPs) was developed through consultations with scientific and carbon-crediting experts. 

Carbon-crediting programmes can now apply for assessment by submitting evidence to prove that they meet the CCPs through the ICVCM’s application portal. Once approved as CCP-eligible, programmes will be able to use the CCP label on CCP-approved credit categories.

The ICVCM is also setting up multi-stakeholder working groups to evaluate different categories of carbon credits and associated crediting methodologies against the CCP criteria and recommend those which meet its threshold.

It plans to announce the first CCP-eligible programmes and CCP-approved credit categories in time for CCP-labelled credits to be available to buyers by the end of the year, although no specific date has been given.

“The launch of the benchmark is an important step towards defining a global threshold for high integrity carbon credits that will help to accelerate a just transition towards the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal,” said Dirk Forrister, chief executive and president of Switzerland-headquartered non-profit International Emissions Trading Association. 

“Defining a global benchmark for quality carbon credits will help ratchet up ambition in the voluntary carbon market and combat climate change,” he suggested.

Carbon offset certifier Gold Standard said that it will be updating its rules to align with the benchmark. 

“When it comes down to it, most carbon market participants want to maximise impact and setting a threshold for credit integrity should be a boon to developers funding projects and for buyers seeking high-quality investments,” said Samuel Gill, president and co-founder of carbon data provider Sylvera. 

The activation and scaling of high-integrity voluntary carbon markets could become a priority at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) in November, after the Bonn climate talks in June made slow progress on key carbon market principles.

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