Today, the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative (VCMI) released its Claims Code of Practice for corporate buyers of carbon credits. 

This framework answers two questions for the demand side of the voluntary carbon market: 1) When can companies credibly make voluntary use of carbon credits? and 2) What can they credibly say about those credits?

The voluntary credit market has been awash with validity issues highlighted by the lawsuit against Delta’s carbon-neutral pledge as well as many other exposés. The VCMI and the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM), two of the biggest players trying to solve the market’s integrity issues, announced earlier this month that they will be teaming up: Any company that wants the VCMI’s stamp of approval for their credit buying strategy will need to buy credits that pass ICVCM’s guidance. 

“ICVCM looks at the supply side of the market — what constitutes a high-quality credit from a high-quality project certified by a high-quality standard?” said Mark Kenber, executive director at VCMI. “And we look at the demand side — what constitutes high-quality use of credits and claims about them? We’re effectively two parts of two sides of the same coin or two parts of the same system.”

VCMI has also worked closely with the Science-Based Targets Initiative, CDP and the Greenhouse Gas Protocol to ensure they, along with ICVM, are using the same vocabulary and methodologies. 

The Claims Code of Practice is just part one for VCMI. It’s a basic operational framework for companies to buy credits. It outlines four steps for companies to undertake to make a VCMI claim, including meeting VCMI’s foundational criteria, selecting a claim tier level (Platinum, Gold or Silver), selecting carbon credits that are in line with the ICVCM and working with a third-party verifier. 

On the Silver tier, companies purchase high-quality credits for between 20 and 60 percent of remaining emissions after making progress towards decarbonization targets; the Gold tier requires purchasing between 60 percent and 80 percent of emissions, and a Platinum tier purchase offsets 100 percent or remaining emissions.

Our aim is at COP 28 to have a group of companies stand up on stage saying we are making a VCMI claim, using ICVCM carbon credits.

VCMI has been road-testing this framework since the provisional version came out in June.

The feedback to the provisional VCMI ranged included needing to change the title “prerequisite” because it didn’t work in some languages and having more quantifiable instead of qualitative boxes to check for third-party verifiers. Verifiers didn’t like the question “Are you on track to meet your next target?” because verifiers felt that was too qualitative and being “on track” varied widely from company to company, So VCMI changed it so there are exact metrics that companies and verifiers can use.

“Assurers, like financial auditors, like ticking boxes — saying yes, no,” Kenbar said. “They don’t like giving an opinion.”

The second part will come in November when the organization looks more deeply into to what extent is it acceptable for companies to use carbon credits to meet their climate goals and the ongoing monitoring, reporting and assurance framework. VCMI announced 74 stakeholders, including representatives from Etsy, Gold Standard, Boeing, Verra, Salesforce and Sylvera, to finalize this section ahead of COP 28. 

“Our aim is at COP 28 to have a group of companies stand up on stage saying we are making a VCMI claim, using ICVCM carbon credits with these governments who are delighted that we’re investing because it’s supporting their net-zero transitions,” Kenbar said.

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