Verra founding CEO to resign, president appointed interim chief

World’s largest standards body for the voluntary carbon market has faced intense scrutiny over the integrity of its certification process.

david antonioli judith simon headshots
David Antonioli, left, will step down as chief executive of Verra in June. Judith Simon, currently Verra president, will assume an interim CEO role. Images: Verra.

The founding chief executive of Verra, the world’s largest carbon credit certifier, will step down in mid-June after nearly 15 years at the helm.

Outgoing chief David Antonioli will be replaced by Verra’s first president Judith Simon, who will take on an interim chief executive role. Simon joined the non-profit in February.

Since 2009, Verra has issued over a billion carbon credits, each signifying a tonne of carbon dioxide emissions saved, from projects that for instance better protect forests or develop clean energy infrastructure. As of 2020, about 70 per cent of all credits in the US$2 billion voluntary carbon offsetting market have been issued by Verra.

The US-based non-profit came under intense scrutiny in January, following allegations by newspapers Guardian and Die Zeit, along with non-profit SourceMaterial, that most of Verra’s carbon credits are “worthless” because of inaccurate calculations involving forest projects, which form the bulk of Verra’s work.

Antonioli had written in response then that the articles were “academically interesting exercises” but are “sensationalist” and “outlandish” because they used simplistic tools and cherry-picked data. Verra has since drafted updates to its certifying methodology.

“Under [Antonioli’s] leadership, Verra has grown into an organisation that is critical to achieving the goal of the Paris Agreement and ensuring sustainable development around the world,” said Verra board chair Ken Markowitz. Antonioli will serve as senior consultant to Verra’s board to advise the leadership transition.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries worldwide had agreed to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, and possibly 1.5°C, against about 1.2°C of warming currently.

On LinkedIn, Antonioli said that he will be going on vacation and does not have plans for his next venture.

Antonioli said the business acumen of Simon, his interim successor, is “exactly what Verra meets to better meet the markets’ growing demands”.

The voluntary carbon market is expected to grow as more businesses seek carbon credits to offset their own emissions due to investor, consumer and public pressure.

However, the market is currently in a slump due to economic headwinds and the allegations of over-crediting. Major industry bodies are currently looking to improve the integrity of the sector by defining what counts as quality credits, and how companies should use them responsibly.

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