Core Carbon Principles provide guidance around global thresholds for a high-integrity voluntary carbon market

EDF carbon markets experts welcome the Integrity Council’s efforts while calling for continued work

July 28, 2023
Sommer Yesenofski,

The Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (the Integrity Council), an independent governance body for the voluntary carbon market, released its final set of threshold guidance intended to serve as a global benchmark for carbon credit quality.   

The Integrity Council’s Core Carbon Principles (CCPs) and Assessment Framework (AF) aim to establish a consistent and standardized guide to assess the quality of high-quality carbon credits. The Integrity Council’s guidance is the first of its kind for the voluntary carbon market, which has experienced increased demand from companies and investors striving to meet voluntary climate commitments. Following an initial release in March 2023, today’s release includes some clarity on the elements needed to qualify for CCP compliance, and firm commitments to continue improving the CCPs and Assessment Framework. 

The Core Carbon Principles can drive much-needed improvement in the market, and more work remains to realize this potential,” said Mandy Rambharos, Vice President for Global Climate Cooperation. “We are heartened to see that the next phase will bring additional stakeholders into this process with consultation and engagement.

In the next phase of the Integrity Council’s work, they will focus on assessing carbon crediting programs against the CCP criteria, set up stakeholder working groups to develop recommendations to further assess carbon credits, and announce the first round of CCP-eligible programs and CCP-approved categories. This work will be reflected in the next version of the Assessment Framework, due for implementation in 2026.  

The full implications of the Assessment Framework will not be known until it is applied. However, as the Integrity Council approaches its next phase of implementing and building upon the CCPs, EDF urges the Integrity Council to continue working on: 

  • Strengthening governance and decision-making processes by making them more inclusive and transparent. Specifically, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) need to be included in decision-making and governance roles. More needs to be done to ensure IPLC stakeholders hold power in processes to develop guidance and engage in governance. 

  • Ensuring a clear pathway for high-quality credits from natural climate solutions (NCS) is provided. High quality NCS such as tropical forest conservation are critical to providing the near-term mitigation needed to meet global climate goals. It is key that the IC-VCM sends appropriate market signals on high quality NCS credits. 

  • Providing clear guidance on price transparency. The Integrity Council intends to create a work program to develop clarity on price transparency, and we encourage them to address urgent issues such as the opaqueness of pricing information as well as information on the distribution of benefits with IPLC and other stakeholders. 

As we strive for integrity, we must also act to make the voluntary carbon market equitable and inclusive, by engaging Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in governance and leadership positions," said Rambharos. "This is a necessary priority for climate action, not a nice-to-have. Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities safeguard vital, carbon-storing rainforests at the local level. If we want to conserve rainforests and do so with integrity, we need Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in a leadership role. For such engagements, process legitimacy is a key success factor.

As ICVCM guidance continues to evolve, there are resources available to support the IC-VCM in its ongoing efforts as well as to help carbon credit buyers navigate the voluntary carbon market. These include:  

  • Carbon Credit Quality Initiative (CCQI), co-managed by Environmental Defense Fund, World Wildlife Fund-US and Oeko-Institut, offers transparent information on carbon credit quality to move the market towards higher quality. CCQI offers a free, interactive tool to score the quality of carbon credit types.   

  • The Tropical Forest Credit Integrity (TFCI) Guide, authored by environmental non-profits and Indigenous Peoples organizations, helps companies to differentiate among tropical forest carbon credits by impact, quality, and scale, to move the market towards credits with high social and environmental integrity.  

  • The Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative's (VCMI) Claims Code of Practice is a set of guidelines that helps companies to make credible claims about their voluntary climate actions and ambitions when using carbon credits. 


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