A carbon credit is a certificate representing one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent that is either prevented from being emitted into the atmosphere (emissions avoidance/reduction) or removed from the atmosphere as the result of a carbon-reduction project. If, as is expected, carbon crediting programs widely agree to be assessed under the framework established by the ICVCM, the adoption and application of these principles by carbon crediting programs will bring greater uniformity to voluntary carbon market standards, and contribute to ensuring a high level of integrity in the market. Voluntary carbon credits are a very useful tool to help us reducing our carbon emissions.
Comparison of main carbon credits standard eligibility criterias
In order to provide clarity on the main carbon credits standards eligibility criterias, we created the following table to compare some majors standards with Riverse criterias.
We use the great work of The Nordic Dialogue on Voluntary Compensation, a coalition of nordics countries governmental institutions, on Clean Development Mechanism, Verified Carbon Standard by Verra, and The Gold Standard, and added Label Bas Carbone (France governmental standard) and Riverse for comparison.
We studied 13 main criterias, split in 3 categories - Core Carbon Principles, Environmental Impact, Methods.
We detailed below the definition of each criteria and how Riverse answers this criteria.
Core Carbon Principles
Definition: Carbon credits represent greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) already reduced, avoided or captured , in order to ensure each credit can be linked to a physical reality.
Riverse relevant credit carbon criteria : Method. 6.c
To reach objectives of net zero emissions ll emissions of carbon dioxide reductions and removals and the project activities that generate themhave genuinely taken place, they are measured, monitored and verified ex-post. Ex-Post carbon crediting is the issuance of carbon offsets after independent verification of emission reductions. In case of Riverse certification protocol, each ex-post carbon credits is only emitted afterapproval of each verification KPI supporting proof, on a regular basis.
Definition: Carbon credits emissions is linked to a robust measurability, transparent, linked to available methodologies consistent with ISO 14064-2, for the calculation of both baseline and projects scenarios.
Riverse relevant criteria: Method. 6. f
Carbon inventories are based on - or reduced to - the principles of life cycle assessment, following the steps :
● Definition of a functional unit and the basic scenario and how it helps to be net zero emissions
● Definition of system boundaries
● Measurement of material and energy flows
● Evaluation of their environmental impact (at least the carbon weight). The carbon inventories performed for the baseline and project scenarios will have to follow the greenhouse gas emissions Protocol standards or equivalent. *
The accepted list of carbon accounting methodologies is as follows:
● Project Protocol
● Corporate Value Chain Standard
● Bilan Carbone© (carbon footprint)
● GHG inventory (as defined in ISO 14065-1)
● Life Cycle Assessment (in the sense of standard 14040)
● EHSF (according to the NF EN 15804+A1 standard)
All measurements must be verifiable and scientifically documented, i.e.: the emission of carbon dioxide factors of inputs, products, co-products and processes must be derived from reference carbonstandards (e.g. ADEME's Base Carbone in France).
Definition: The project or measures to generate carbon credits would not have happened without the project finance, is not a regulatory requirement and is beyond business as usual or common practice;
Riverse relevant criteria: Method. 6.e
A project is therefore considered additional if it cannot be implemented without the carbon contribution mechanism. Additionality is a key criterion to ensure that the financing carbon credits provided has a real impact on the fight against climate change.
To be eligible, the project must therefore prove its financial additionality, by demonstrating 1 of the 4 points below:
- Justify a price difference between the baseline and the project scenario thatprevents or significantly delays its deployment
- Justify administrative or technological constraints that could be overcome byadditional fundingThe project must justify that additional funding would increase the impact of the solution inthe short term:
- Prove that the current funding of the project does not allow for its wider deployment
- Demonstrate that the project's current funding reduces or limits its potential impact
Definition: Where projects carry risk of reversal, adequate safeguards are implemented place to ensure that the risk of reversal is minimised, and that, if any reversal occurs, a mechanism is in place that guarantees the carbon credits will be replaced at equal price and environmental value.
Riverse relevant criteria: Method. 6.d
To ensure that the avoided emissions valued are real and to avoid the number of CCCs issued exceeding the reductions, Riverse incorporates two levels of precaution in its methodology:
● For all projects: a 10% rebate is systematically applied to the evaluation of emissions avoidance, the risk of project failure
● Additionally a buffer is taken when sales are done prior the verification, 20% per year separating purchase to avoidance schedule (please refer to registry rules)
For capture projects for good carbon credits, an additionnal permanence criteria is added, with 3 possible levels of storage:
● Short-term storage (Estimated duration less than 50 years, ex: biobased construction)
● Medium-term storage (more than 50 years, less than 150 years, examples: biochar, bio-oils)
● Long-term storage (over than 150 years, example deep storage of CO2)
Definition: GHG emission reductions or removal enhancements are verified by an independent and competent third-party, to enable carbon credits issuance
Riverse relevant criteria: Method. 6.A
Each project plan is audited by a accredited, independent and competent third-party verifier (validation & verification body - VVB), on the following elements about carbon credits:
● Robustness of carbon gain measurement
● Compliance with Riverse methodology specifications
● Validity of verification KPIs, supporting document proofs and check frequences
VVB needs to be compliant with Riverse accreditation rules, which main principles are the following
● Prove a sufficient knowledge in carbon measurement
● Prove a sufficient knowledge in carbon credits system
● Sign Riverse VVB Agreement
● Sign Riverse Conflicts of Interest Policy
Definition: The carbon-crediting standard must use of a registry to uniquely identify, record and track carbon credits mitigation activies, to ensure carbon credits can be identified securely and without ambiguity.
Riverse relevant criteria: Method. 6.b
Any project wishing to have its GHG emission gains certified using Riverse methodology must contractually commit not to using another certification body or label for the project of carbon credits in question. In order to ensure transparency on our uniqueness process, all CCCs are visible on the Riverse registry, which is accessible online along with all project information and the associated CCC lifecycle.
Definition: Leakage is defined as the net change of anthropogenic emissions by sources of greenhouse gases (GHG) which occurs outside the project
Riverse relevant criteria: Method. 6.f.iii
Thanks to its full comparative carbon lifetime cycle analysis, Riverse measurement part of its protocol reduces massively leakage risks of carbon credits. However, in case of clear leakage risks, Riverseteam during pre-validation phase or VVB during third-party audit can require an additionalleakage buffer on the final amount of carbon credit emissions
Do Not Harm
Definition: Standard carbon credits methodology must put safeguards in place to prevent unintended environmental and social impacts, especially in development countries.
Riverse relevant criteria: Method. 7.4
The project must be assessed against all SDGs. If the assessors or Riverse have doubts in the verification and certification process, additional proof should be asked. The process/project must not significantly impair any of the Sustainable DevelopmentGoals.
No double counting
Definition: Measures for avoiding double counting through the issuance and tracking of carbon credits that have unique serial numbers and are listed in a recognized public registry, and adequate procedures for the permanent retirement or cancellation of the carbon credits, which includes procedures for clear assignment of the credits to the entity claiming carbon neutrality;
Measures for addressing double claiming e.g. where the GHG emission reduction is claimed by more than one entity;
Riverse relevant criteria: Method. 6.b
Any project wishing to have its GHG emission gains certified using Riverse methodology must contractually commit to not using another certification body or label for the project inquestion. In order to ensure transparency on our uniqueness process, all CCCs are visible on the Riverse registry, which is accessible online along with all project information and the associated CCC lifecycle.
Monitoring, reporting and verification methodolgies
Definition: Industry stakeholder views were solicited and considered during the Standard's development.
Stakeholder consultation requirements and processes for development of rules and procedures, methodologies, tools, and crediting projects or programmes.
Local stakeholder views were solicited and considered during the Standard's development.
Riverse relevant criteria: Method. 6.a
Each Riverse methodology is being validated by a relevant carbon credit experts,on the following elements:● Compliance of the methodology with ICVCM recommendation to certify highestquality carbon credit● Quality of measurement guidelines to ensure LCA rigourness and conservativeness● Robustness of verification process over time
Public consultation is made every year to review methodology improvement.
SDG impact assessment
Definition: Sustainable Development Goals from United Nations are taking into account into the process, and project SDG impact is assessed during the certification process.
Riverse relevant criteria: Method. 8.a
All Riverse certified projects must have a positive systemic impact to ensure that they arepart of a sustainable world by having two quantifiable and verifiable co-benefits.In order to be consistent with international standard, the project is asked to prove andquantify at least 2 co-benefits in accordance to the United Nations SustainableDevelopment Goals (cf Criteria 5). The project must not harm any of them (cf Criteria 6).
Companies can participate in the voluntary carbon market either individually or as part of an industry-wide scheme, such as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, which was set up by the aviation sector to offset its greenhouse gas emissions.
Definition: The greenhouse gas emission reductions or removals from the mitigation activity shall be robustly quantified, based on conservative approaches, completeness and sound scientific methods.
Riverse relevant criteria: Method 5.c
Riverse Verification Oracles (KPIs)
One of the main parts of process certification is to define which KIIs are defined to monitorand verify carbon credits emissions over time. The aim is to facilitate an annual verification process to ensure data quality in project monitoring.The key impact indicators are physical parameters that can be controlled and measure (automatically preferably).To determine whether one should consider using a key impact indicator, it should be :
● changing (over time or depending on process)
● measurable on the ground
● responsible for 10% of project's overall impact
Of course KPI that are directly linked to project's impact and output (such as ha in forestation, kWh in biogaz production) must be accounted for. For one given project, there number goes from 3 to 5.
These KPIs are chosen to follow all the key factors of project life cycle analysis. For each KII, a proof of verification and a frequency is defined.
Oracles are the keys that enable the reporting of the key impact indicators. They must be:
● auditable and documented: it exists a process (human or preferably digital) that lead to this results
● objective: is not subject to interpretation, anyone reads the same results
● digitalized: oracles will be associated to carbon credits in the end, they must be atleast digitalized if not already digital
Riverse Verification process
Riverse verification is part of the verification process set up by Riverse. On a regular basis (every 3, 6 or 12 months) the projects upload the oracles for audit and verification of its impact. Riverse's verification framework is included in the subscription of the project to the platform. In case of using a VVB offer, all fees and process are detailed by each VVB on Riverse platform.
In case of a process change, the project developer has to notify Riverse's team, who decides if the process change is validated or needs further audit. If the process change is important, the validation will need to be done again. In case of a lack of proof of verification for a KPI, carbon credits emission is stopped until further notice.
SD impact monitoring
Definition: Sustainable Development Goals from United Nations are quantified, monitored and verified during certification process.
Riverse relevant criteria: Method 8.b
In case of UN SDG harm risks, Riverse team during pre-validation phase or VVB duringthird-party audit can require additional proofs to avoid these risks. Note thannon-compliance with Environmental and Social Do No Harm requirements can impeachproject certification.
A proper methodology to monitor and verify each SDG during project deployment is under progress by Riverse Team.
As we saw in this article, scaling voluntary carbon markets allows carbon emitters to offset their unavoidable emissions by purchasing carbon credits emitted by projects targeted at removing or reducing GHG from the atmosphere. But it is still important to be sure that those carbon credits have been certified before bying them.
To learn more about how carbon credits and carbon markets work, see Christopher Blaufelder, Joshua Katz, Cindy Levy, Dickon Pinner, and Jop Weterings, “ How the voluntary carbon market can help address climate change ,” December 2020.
Nordic Dialogue on Voluntary Compensation - Working together towards and beyond carbon neutrality
Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets Report
Integrity Council For The Voluntary Carbon Market Public Consultation
Norton Rose Fulbrighth - Draft Core Carbon Principles for the Voluntary Carbon Market released
Label Bas Carbone methodologies