EDF welcomes integrity guidance for voluntary carbon market; urges inclusion of Indigenous leadership & JREDD+

Carbon markets experts applaud Integrity Council’s efforts while calling for increased engagement with Indigenous Peoples and local communities and inclusion of high-quality jurisdictional REDD+ credits

March 29, 2023
Sommer Yesenofski, syesenofski@edf.org

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

Today’s release includes the Core Carbon Principles (CCPs), which aim to establish a consistent and standardized guide to assess the recognition of high-quality carbon credits. The Integrity Council also released its Assessment Framework (AF), which provides guidance on how to apply the CCPs to carbon crediting programs and defines which carbon-crediting programs and methodology types are CCP-eligible. 

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. The guidance also comes among increased scrutiny over the integrity of certain types of carbon credits. 

The next round of the Integrity Council’s guidance will be released later this Spring. Environmental Defense Fund experts are calling on the Council to ensure the inclusion of the following:  

  • Increased and enhanced engagement with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC) as key stakeholders in the voluntary carbon market: Indigenous leaders have raised concerns around the lack of effective consultation in the development of the CCPs, particularly around guidance that threatens to exclude jurisdictional tropical forest protection (JREDD+) credits and the High Forest, Low Deforestation (HFLD) credits. Full and effective participation of IPLCs as partners in decision-making processes related to the voluntary carbon market is key to upholding integrity.  

  • High-integrity jurisdictional JREDD+ credits as eligible under forthcoming guidance: High-quality jurisdictional REDD+ programs are essential to scaling up tropical forest conservation at the scale and pace needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. They can also be a critical means to contribute to the Integrity Council’s objectives of scale, integrity, and a just transition. The Tropical Forest Credit Integrity (TFCI) Guide clearly signals that high-quality jurisdictional REDD+ credits can drive the voluntary market to higher integrity, while enabling large-scale forest conservation and providing benefits for climate, people, and biodiversity.  

  • Clear standards for benefit sharing agreements: Currently, there are no strong requirements on benefit sharing arrangements, beyond transparency, in the CCPs. Ensuring these agreements are developed with the inclusion of all stakeholders and reinforced with accountability is paramount to ensuring they are effective and fair. 

The release of the CCPs also did not include a mandatory “share of proceeds” to drive equitable benefits sharing. The “Share of Proceeds” has potential to share more widely and equitably the benefits of carbon markets by sharing the revenues with communities that have a great need for generating funds for adaptation, but do not contribute to emissions and therefore cannot generate carbon credits. The exclusion of a mandatory share of proceeds in the Council's Core Carbon Principles is a missed opportunity to ensure the voluntary carbon market contributes to equitable and just climate action. 

In response to the launch of the Integrity Council’s Core Carbon Principles, Mandy Rambharos, Vice President for Global Climate Cooperation at Environmental Defense Fund, released the following statement:  

The new guidance from the Integrity Council has potential to breathe new ambition for integrity into the voluntary carbon market at a challenging moment. Companies, carbon credit developers, communities and climate watchdogs have long awaited clarity on what ‘quality’ means for carbon credits—and the CCPs are a major step forward.  

However, there are still several issues that need attention and answers from the Council: We need to see Indigenous Peoples and local communities integrated as decision-making partners. We need to see a pathway for high-integrity JREDD+ credits that can drive large-scale tropical forest conservation. And we need to see the benefits of the voluntary carbon market shared equitably, inclusively and broadly. 

We are optimistic that with this guidance, the voluntary carbon market can channel much-needed finance towards genuine and additional emissions reductions and drive climate-resilient development.

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