Carbon standards are quality labels which certify that carbon credits arising from offset projects comply with given environmental and/or social criteria. Each standard sets its own requirements and the certification criteria are very varied. It is advisable to check the standards’ requirements before purchasing carbon credits with a quality label.
The choice of standard is a matter for the project owner.
Most voluntary carbon standards are based on the requirements of CDM Clean Development Mechanism is the mechanism for offsetting between an industrialized country and a developing country under the Kyoto Protocol. go to glossary . They have been adapted to reduce the time frames and costs of certification so that a wider range of projects can be offered.
It is possible to find carbon credits with several certifications, i.e. they meet the criteria of various standards.
Certain voluntary standards, for example, may be associated with Kyoto CDM credits, as in the case of the Gold Standard.
The main standards
The standards that may be classed as “traditional” are those primarily designed to certify project emission reductions.
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
The CDM is one of the two offsetting mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol. CDM projects are developed by industrialized countries in developing countries. The projects are validated by the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), which checks that the emission reductions are real, measurable, verifiable and additional. It is possible to obtain CDM credits known as
Certified Emission Reductions.
go to glossary
as a voluntary offsetter. The activity sectors covered by UNFCCC methodologies include power generation, construction, transport, chemicals, etc.
The UNFCCC site
Verified Carbon Standard
Established in 2006 when it was known as the Voluntary Carbon Standard, the VCS is the most commonly used voluntary standard in the world, currently accounting for around 47%1 of the voluntary market. It focuses on the quality of greenhouse gas (GHG) savings and pays particular attention to ensuring that project emission reductions are real, measurable, verifiable and additional. Many different methodologies can be used to certify a VCS project and may relate to energy, agriculture, forestry or waste. Projects to destroy CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons, which are industrial gases) are excluded from VCS methodologies
Originally created by WWF in collaboration with a wide range of NGOs, academics and private sector representatives, the Gold Standard (GS) applies to Kyoto credits and voluntary market credits. It sets the highest standards on socio-economic benefits beyond carbon and prioritises the engagement of local stakeholders in climate and development projects. The Gold Standard’s scope includes energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste management, forestry, and agriculture, and has recently launched a Water Benefit Standard to allow governments, corporates, and individuals to contribute to water stewardship.
REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) is not strictly speaking a label but a United Nations programme aimed at reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. By putting a monetary value on carbon stored in trees, the REDD+ mechanism offers incentives to developing countries to implement policies to combat deforestation, increase forest resources and manage forests sustainably, thereby increasing stocks of forest carbon. Once the sequestered carbon has been evaluated and quantified, industrialized countries can buy carbon credits from REDD+ project owners according to the number of tonnes of CO2 sequestered.
The ISO 14064 standard is a system of reference that certifies quantification of emission reductions and verification of their additionality, monitoring and auditing. The regulations include three organizational sections:
– ISO 14064-1: Specifications with guidance at the organization level for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals.
– ISO 14064-2: Specifications with guidance at the project level for the quantification, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions or removal enhancements.µ
– ISO 14064-3: Specifications with guidance for the validation and verification of greenhouse gas assertions.
Climat Action Reserve (CAR)
The CAR has developed its own eligibility criteria, approved by the VCS, for recording in its own registry, such as verification of the additionality of the emission reductions and their verification by an independent third party. The CAR does not certify fossil fuel replacement projects (e.g. moving from coal to natural gas). Only projects located on US or Mexican territory are eligible for the CAR.
“Complementary” standards focusing on socio-economic benefits are applied at the same time as a “traditional” standard that certifies emission reductions.
Social Carbon Standard
Originally designed to assess the benefits of forestry projects on local populations, the SOCIALCARBON Standard has expanded its analysis to many other activities that contribute to sustainable development through 6 resources: natural, financial, human, social, biodiversity and carbon.
& Biodiversity Standards
The CCB standards focus on the benefits provided for the climate, local communities and biodiversity. There are two levels of certification: “approved” projects meeting all the compulsory criteria set out in the standard and “gold” projects fulfilling at least one additional criterion. Only farming, forestry or land-use projects are eligible for complementary CCB certification.
The W+ standard backs projects that include women in their implementation, offer women socio-economic benefits and foster women’s independence. This standard is not confined to offset projects and is open to classic development projects. Evaluation using the W+ standard refers to 6 categories of direct or indirect benefits provided by projects: time saved, income, health, education and knowledge, leadership and food security.
Water Benefits Standards
The Water Benefit Standard was instigated with a view to encouraging more sustainable management of water resources and developing access to clean water for the local population. The WBS guarantees that projects offer benefits in terms of the water resources in their operational area. Evaluation of the standard looks at how the resource is managed and, in particular, checks whether a given volume of water has been supplied on a sustainable basis, purified or simply stored during the project activity.
The Plan Vivo standard certifies projects that provide environmental, social and economic benefits in the project area and to local communities. In particular, it backs projects providing co-benefits such as reduction in poverty levels, conservation and restoration of degraded ecosystems or conservation and protection of biodiversity, or projects helping communities adapt to climate change (for example through soil stabilization).
A registry is an accounting system whereby each carbon credit and emission quota can be monitored. As in the banking system, each participant can under certain conditions open an account in which all carbon asset purchase, sale or cancellation movements will be recorded. Accordingly, the registry ensures the traceability of carbon assets and makes it possible to verify that the latter have not been transferred more than once, guaranteeing their uniqueness.
If the credit is sold on to a third party who has an account in another registry, the carbon credit will then be transferred from the seller’s to the buyer’s registry. If he does not have a registry, the credit will be withdrawn from the seller’s registry and retired. In both cases, the registry will supply a transaction certificate (transfer or retirement). Most registries are public and charge management and transaction fees for each carbon credit movement.