Quality standards for carbon reduction projects
At first glance, it is difficult for each of us to determine the specific benefits and the quality of a carbon reduction project. To provide transparency, quality standards for such projects were developed. These standards ensure compliance with defined quality criteria. This is to ultimately ensure that greenhouse gas emissions are actually reduced to the desired level and that the project's social benefits communicated are actually achieved.
As part of the quality checks anchored in the standards, among others the following important questions from independent auditors (the so-called verifiers), are checked on an annual basis:
- Are greenhouse gas emissions actually being reduced by the project?
- Wouldn't the project have happened anyway, or is it additional to a business-as-usual scenario? Why can the project generate emission reduction credits at all?
- How can e.g. negative side effects be avoided, such as the displacement of native animal and plant species by monocultures?
In recent years, more and more quality standards for the voluntary carbon offset market were established. At GoClimateAction we rely on the following four quality standards.
Verified Carbon Standard (VCS)
The VCS is the most widely used standard worldwide for voluntary carbon offsetting. It was developed in 2005 i.a. by The Climate Group and the World Economic Forum and is managed by the non-profit and non-governmental organization VERRA. VERRA also maintains the database in which all VCS projects and their emission reduction certificates are registered.
You can find all details about VERRA and the VCS here.
Gold Standard for the Global Goals
The Gold Standard was developed in 2003 by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and more than 20 other international environmental organisations. The standard is administered by the non-profit Gold Standard Foundation based in Switzerland. Gold Standard carbon reduction projects are primarily characterized by the fact that - in addition to reducing carbon emissions - they also contribute to sustainable development in the respective project region and generate social benefits.
After the Paris Agreement in 2015 and the formulation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Gold Standard renamed to "Gold Standard for the Global Goals". The standard extension includes now also areas such as health or water supply and thus initiates new investments for carbon reduction projects to be certified according to the Gold Standard.
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) was launched as part of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The CDM can not only be used for voluntary emissions offsetting, but also for governmental climate action programs. Therefore, governments, companies and private individuals can acquire emission reduction certificates from CDM projects (= Certified Emission Reductions, CERs) and use them for their respective climate action purposes.
A United Nations independent supervisory board (CDM Executive Board) develops the CDM implementation rules and decides on projects and the issuance of reduction certificates.
Simplified regulations apply to small and very small projects, the so called Programs of Activities (PoAs). PoAs bundle several smaller carbon reduction activities into one carbon reduction project and thus make this project financially viable.
Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard (CCBS)
The Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard is a widely used standard that is only used in combination with the VCS. It aims to examine the overall benefits of a project that go beyond the pure emission reductions. Special focus is placed on the preservation of biodiversity and the social impact in the project regions. The CCBS does not have its own methodology for calculating emission reductions, as it is only used in combination with the VCS.
The CCBS was developed jointly by research institutes, companies and environmental groups in 2012/2013 and is mainly used in forestry and agricultural projects. The non-profit standard is administered by the carrier of the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) VERRA. You can find more details about the CCBS here.