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Still Much To Do: Our Take on the Latest ICVCM Release

It’s a step in the right direction, but still a far cry from where we need to be.

That about sums up how we feel about the Core Carbon Principles (CCP), Assessment Framework and Assessment Procedure released last week by the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM).

We wholeheartedly support the crucial work the ICVCM is doing to evolve a threshold for quality and integrity across the VCM, and bring much-needed confidence and comparability to it.

But while this latest framework makes important progress, there remains too large a gap in the market around the ability to identify high-quality carbon credits.

The challenge ahead — and it's one we’re more than ready to meet — will be for market actors and the ICVCM to work together to build on this foundation and close that gap.

It’s a start, but only just.

With its singular focus on requirements for carbon-crediting standards and programs, as opposed to carbon projects themselves, this release is just not the game-changer we were all hoping for.

The market needs clear guidelines for what makes a high-quality, high-integrity carbon credit. We didn’t quite get that.  

The CCPs do raise some good points and identify important gaps, but many of the requirements laid out are already included in current carbon registry program requirements — so it’s mainly a rehash of current best practices, plus a few additional recommendations that don’t go far enough to affect any real change.

The good news is that the ICVCM has promised to release its project category-level requirements in Q2 of this year.

The hard (and more useful) part comes next.

We expect the establishment of those category-level requirements to be the really challenging work, but also the most necessary.

These CCPs were highly anticipated because they were expected to bring clarity to the convoluted question of quality credits — a single source of truth amid what has so far been a noisy and crowded arena of competing standards.

It’s essential that the VCM evolve and mature to a point where a unified, agreed-upon framework governs its actors and interactions. That’s what’s needed — and in particular a high bar of project quality and rigor — to establish the confidence buyers are looking for.

Pushing that moment of maturity down the road can delay or impede investments that potential VCM projects depend on — in other words, delay critical climate action when we’ve no time to waste.

A question of quality and confidence.

That’s not to say the release of these program-level requirements isn’t an important incremental step — it is.  

It makes progress on raising the bar for lower-tier carbon credits and we remain resolutely supportive of those efforts.

We just need to bear in mind that there’s much work to be done from here. The ICVCM must help the VCM scale up by providing more specific guidance that will enable market participants to more easily identify the highest-quality carbon credits. It’s certainly something Aspiration can help with — we’ve worked hard to develop our own rigorous vetting and monitoring process to ensure the quality of any project we support, and we’d be happy to share what we’ve learned.

But we have to act now. Not doing so — or waiting too long — could mean missing our opportunity to avoid climate catastrophe.

That’s why we’re eager to engage and work with the ICVCM and others to move forward together, tackle the hard questions around credit quality, and go much further to increase confidence in the VCM and help it reach its full potential.

There’s still much work to do to make that happen, but together we can get there.

Rob Lee is a leader in the climate change and carbon industry with over 12 years of experience pioneering industry recognized standards. The head of Carbon Programs, Rob oversees the development and establishment of Aspiration’s global carbon portfolio as well as the company’s carbon credit quality standards. Rob has technical expertise across all sectors of carbon projects having led multiple technical teams while serving as Program Director at the Climate Action Reserve. Rob has direct experience in offset project reporting, verification, and registration; development of offset protocols, methodologies, and quantification tools; training project developers and verifiers; accreditation under international carbon market governing bodies; and development and design of new programs such as the Climate Forward program. Rob has advised national and subnational governments on carbon market design, policy, and implementation, and has acted as an independent advisor to organizations seeking to understand carbon market dynamics. He received a Master of Environmental Management from the Nicholas School at Duke University with an International Development Policy Certificate from the Sanford School of Public Policy and a B.S. in Operations Research from Columbia University.