Core principles

All certified projects are evaluated according the criteria defined in our standard rules.

The criteria set by Riverse ensure our standard respects the best practice of the market, and are resumed through the following the carbon credit core principles:

  • Measurability
  • Additionality
  • Reality
  • Permanence
  • Unicity
  • Co-benefits
  • Substitution
  • Do no harm
  • Leakage
  • Rebound effects
  • Technology Readiness Level
  • Targets Alignement
  • Minimum impact
  • Independent Verification.

We have chosen and refined these criteria to provide qualitative carbon credits to the market. The other criteria are detailed in the list below.

Additionally, as per our present advancement level, we are limited in the number of technologies that are eligible for our standard. We are consistently working on assessing and allowing more technologies to get certified.

1. Measurability

Each project must prove its impact with a comparative life cycle assessment (LCA). The LCA should cover all life cycle stages where there are potential differences between the project and the baseline scenario. The LCA must include the indicator of global warming potential over at least 100 years due to airborne emissions of GHGs (in kgCO2eq).

The comparative approach must use the same functional unit (FU) for both baseline and project scenarios. The FU must be quantified, qualitatively described and geographically and temporally defined.

More detailed LCA rules and descriptions are available in the General LCA Methodology in the standard rules.

Riverse provides tools to allow project developers to conduct their own LCA. Alternatively, project developers may use a preexisting recent LCA, if it is:

  • representative of the current processes
  • aligned with the quality and rigour defined in the Riverse LCA Rules
  • provided by a company demonstrating at least 2 years of expertise in LCA

When LCA methodologies are not sufficiently adapted or relevant to the project, projects’ LCA can be supported by a specific methodology, including peer-reviewed literature. In this case, scientific and technical reviews will be added to the project's case.

A list of key impact indicators (KIIs) must be provided along with the LCA. These parameters’ values are important to the LCA results, are subject to change, and will be used for monitoring over time.

2. Reality

A carbon credit is real if it represents an actual net emissions avoidance/removal that has occurred, as opposed to an estimated future avoidance/removal. Certified credits issued by Riverse are all ex-post, meaning the mitigation activity that leads to emission removal/avoidance has already taken place. In contrast, Riverse pre-credits are ex-ante, meaning they come from solutions that are expected to be implemented. 

During the verification process, project developers follow their monitoring plan to prove that the estimated emission removal/avoidance has occurred, and was not overestimated due to artificial, incomplete, or inaccurate emissions accounting.

To prove that a carbon credit is real, project developers must track KIIs during the mitigation activity and share them with Riverse through monitoring documents. KIIs should demonstrate that the project:

  • Delivered its expected outputs: the project actually occurred and executed its functions
  • Reduced/avoided emissions: KIIs can be critical parameters in the LCA, which have a large influence on emission calculations. Tracking these parameters can help justify that the emissions of the actual mitigation activity are coherent with the expected emissions

The Riverse registry includes a provision pool, where 10% of each projects’ credits are automatically transferred. This pool of credits acts as a safeguard/buffer in case of overestimation of projects’ true emissions.

3. Additionality

Carbon credits issued by Riverse must fund carbon-negative solutions that would not have occurred without the project’s mitigation activity. This principle, called additionality, ensures that climate financing spurs additional action to fight climate change, rather than subsidizing actions that would have happened anyway. 

Carbon credits cannot be issued for projects which would have occurred regardless of the sale of carbon credits, or for carbon removal/avoidance which would have occurred without the intervention of the project. All projects must demonstrate their Regulatory Additionality, plus at least one type of additionality in the DPD.

The types of additionality are described below:

  • Regulatory additionality: The project must demonstrate there is no existing or expected law, regulation, statute,legal ruling or other regulatory framework that makes the implementation of the project compulsory
  • Financial additionality: A project is considered additional if the funding it receives from sales of carbon credits enables the project to occur or expand
  • Prevalence additionality: A project’s mitigation activity may be profitable yet not pervasive in the region/sector. This barrier of common practice may be overcome with financing from carbon credits
  • Technological additionality: Technological barriers may exist that prevent the mitigation activity from occurring or expanding. This may include access to equipment, infrastructure, or skilled labor. Funding from sales of carbon credits may allow projects to overcome these barriers.

4. Permanence

Permanence refers to a situation where the project’s carbon removal stays constant for the committed-upon duration (at least 100 years). Alternatively, a project may be non-permanent due to, for example, natural disaster (fires, drought, pests) or project mismanagement. The mitigation activity then only results in a temporary carbon removal, which has a limited effect on climate change abatement.

Permanence should be ensured through:

  • a commitment period: the Riverse Certification team and project developers determine the duration a mitigation activity commits to, and then whether the credit faces reversal risks. Commitment periods are the duration over which sequestration activities have permanence horizons, and differ from crediting periods.
  • a contribution to the provision pool: all projects must contribute 10% of their verified credits to the provision pool. In case of carbon removal reversal or failure to deliver a project, these credits will replace the canceled credits. 
  • reliable information: the project must disclose all information required to calculate the commitment period
  • risk assessment: an evaluation of the risk of reversal, outlining potential causes for reversal and their likelihood

All projects must describe their risk of reversals associated with specific risk factors across five categories – Social, Economic, Environmental, Technical and Administration. 

5. Unicity

Unicity refers to the unique sale of carbon credits, which  is fundamental for the environmental integrity of carbon trading. Carbon credits must only be counted once, and shouldn’t be double-issued or sold.

This is maintained by ensuring that credits are not 1) double counted by being issued in multiple registries, or 2) claimed by both the credit seller and buyer. 

Any project wishing to have its GHG emission gains certified using the Riverse standard must sign the platform agreements before moving to the DPD phase committing not to use another certification body or label to issue carbon credits for the given project.

Riverse reserves the right to verify that credit sellers do not claim the same carbon credits that are issued and sold in the registry. In order to ensure transparency, all pre-credits and credits are visible on the Riverse registry, which is accessible online along with all other project information. 

Each pre-credit or credit is traced with a unique identification number from issuance to retirement (see more at chapter 4. Registry).

Project developers and buyers should not count carbon credits directly in their carbon accounting, and should instead follow recommendations by Bilan CarboneⓇ, GHG Protocol or Net Zero Initiative.

6. Co-benefits

All Riverse certified projects must have a positive systemic impact by having two quantifiable and verifiable environmental or social co-benefits. These must be in addition to their climate change benefits, which are already accounted for in the issuance of carbon credits. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) are used as a framework to measure co-benefits. Projects may claim positive co-benefits relating to any of the following SDGs, which are deemed most relevant to Riverse’s program focus: 

  • 7 - Clean and affordable energy
  • 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 9 - Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
  • 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12 - Responsible consumption and production
  • 14 - Aquatic life
  • 15 - Life on earth

Other relevant UN SDG sub-objectives or sustainability indicators may also be used. 

For quantification of these benefits, the project can use either its LCA results or KIIs.

7. Substitution

The products/services generated as project outputs must appropriately, realistically, and efficiently substitute those of the baseline scenario. This shows that projects truly substitute pre-existing products/services and stop project outputs from creating new demand. To ensure this, project outputs must have similar performance metrics to the baseline scenario and deliver equivalent functions. Quantified performance metrics (for example, a thermal resistance of 5m²K/W), should be identified and compared between the baseline and the project scenario. The LCA should use an appropriate functional unit that reflects the performance of the two scenarios.

8. Environmental and Social Do No Harm Safeguards

In addition to proving that projects have multiple benefits, they must prove that they do not contribute to environmental and social damage. DPDs must provide enough detail to validate that project deployment does not significantly harm any of the 17 UN SDGs. The risk of harm to each UN SDG should be explicitly evaluated in DPDs by filling out the Environmental and Social Risk Table. This includes, for each UN SDG, the potential types of harm, the likelihood of harm, and the potential severity of harm. The entire lifecycle of the project should be evaluated for environmental and social risks, including the production, use, and waste treatment stage. Co-products and residual waste must also be considered. The Riverse team or VVB can require additional proof that projects avoid these risks. Note that non-compliance with Environmental and Social Do No Harm requirements can disqualify project certification.

9. Leakage

Carbon leakage refers to the indirect transfer of GHG emissions rather than the absolute avoidance/removal of emissions. This is sometimes referred to as “burden shifting”. Carbon leakage may occur for a number of reasons, for example:

  • If the emissions policy of a country raises local costs, then another country with amore relaxed policy may have a trading advantage. If demand for these goods remains the same, production may move offshore to the cheaper country with less strict environmental standards, and global emissions will not be reduced
  • If environmental policies in one country add a premium to certain fuels or commodities, then the demand may decline and their price may fall. Countries that do not place a premium on those items may then increase demand and use the excess supply, negating any benefit.

Project developers must justify why leakage is not expected to occur, based on market analysis, background research and precedents. The Riverse team may perform additional research, and discovery of significant leakage risks may disqualify projects for carbon credits. In case of small leakage potential, the Riverse team can require an additional leakage buffer on the final amount of carbon credit emissions during pre-validation phase or VVB during third-party audit. Expected leakage should be included in the project LCA if it’s highly likely, as well as within the system boundaries of the LCA.

10. Rebound effects

The rebound effect is a concept in economics that designates an increase in consumption caused by lifting barriers to the use of a good, service, or technology. The extra resources made available are then used for increased consumption of the same product, or for the consumption of other products. In other words, it is the emergence or re-emergence of symptoms (pollution, overconsumption...) that were either absent or controlled before the project took place. Applied to energy consumption, the rebound effect characterizes a perverse and paradoxical effect of progress in energy efficiency: improved efficiency leads to an increase in the use of energy-powered devices and tools, and therefore of the energy needed to manufacture and operate it. This paradoxical rebound effect comes into play in a broad way for all areas of resource use and their environmental impact.

11. Technology Readiness Level

Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) are a method for understanding the technical maturity of a technology during its acquisition phase. TRLs allow engineers to have a consistent reference for understanding technology evolution, regardless of their technical background. The project must at minimum reach TRL 6, which is described in the table below:

12. Targets alignement

Projects must have sufficiently large avoided emissions compared to the baseline scenario, to ensure that carbon credits promote technologies that will remain viable and low-impact in the near future. Riverse does not issue credits for projects with only meager improvements over the baseline scenario. Avoided emissions must be aligned with the sector’s target emission reductions from 2020 to 2030.

The target reductions are:

13. Minimum impact

The project must justify a minimum emission reduction/avoidance of 1000 tC02eq over the crediting period of the project. The total crediting period of a project is limited to 5 years. This is to oblige project developers to regularly reassess their technology against evolving baseline scenarios and background context.

14. Independent Verification

For independent validation of projects, each DPD is audited by an accredited, independent and competent third-party VVB, on the following elements:

  • Compliance with Riverse’s methodology specifications
  • Rigor and accuracy of the LCA
  • Validity of verification KIIs, supporting documents, and monitoring plan

VVBs must be compliant with Riverse’s accreditation rules described in section Procedure Manual and Requirements for Verification and Validation Bodies.