Talking Carbon Markets with US Climate Envoy, John Kerry

Samuel Gill

A few weeks ago, Sam Gill, Co-founder and COO, was invited by Salesforce Chair, Co-CEO, and Co-Founder, Marc Benioff, to join a group of innovators in climate tech to meet with US Climate Envoy, John Kerry, in San Francisco. Read his three main takeaways.

1 April 2022 | I was delighted to join a roundtable with other climate tech innovators at Salesforce Tower in San Francisco a few weeks ago. We came together with John Kerry to discuss how innovation and technology are delivering climate solutions, and explore the role carbon markets can play in the transition to net zero.

There is incredible value in policy coming together with tech innovators to fight the climate crisis. Neither can create change in silo and both rely equally as much on each other in order to challenge the status quo.

What was abundantly clear is that, together, we hold the keys to unlock net zero progress at a much greater speed than is currently possible — something that is increasingly important as the timeframe for targets to be achieved narrows.

Here are my three main takeaways from the meeting on the role carbon markets can have in the global transition to net zero:

1. Carbon markets are a gateway to short-term action

There is now consensus that all companies, sectors and countries should prioritize reducing their own emissions as much as possible before considering offsetting. This is known as the “mitigation hierarchy”. But for many sectors, such as shipping, or aviation, where the technology isn’t currently available for full decarbonization, offsetting will play a critical short- to medium-term role in climate action because it’s the only option. Effective carbon markets, with high levels of transparency about the quality of the credits available, will achieve maximum environmental impact at least cost.

2. The private sector can supercharge action

Governments and regulators wield great power, but cannot move at the speed required to achieve transition targets. This is why, in the short-term, voluntary action from the private sector has to fill the gap. The more the private sector can come up with high-integrity, high-impact approaches to tackling emissions — through the mitigation hierarchy, and including through high-quality offsetting — the easier it will be for regulators to enshrine this best practice. The alternative would be for the regulators to come up with their own rules which would then be imposed on the private sector, causing unnecessary disruption.

3. Both removals and avoidance solutions are required to achieve net zero

Some in the market see a false dichotomy between credits that are seen as avoiding emissions and credits that are seen as removing greenhouse gasses. But, provided they are high quality, both “avoidance” and “removals” credits can achieve the exact same impact — though over the coming decades we will see a shift towards more removals credits, as regulations around the world obviate the need for avoidance credits. With high-quality data can we get a true sense of the quality of each credit, regardless of whether they are avoidance or removals. Given the scale of the climate crisis we face, we need every lever available — including both avoidance and removals credits — rather than getting caught up in pointless debates about which is better.

Overall, what I took away from San Francisco with me was even more determination to keep doing what we’re doing at Sylvera.

This will not be easy. I, like many others, have concerns about how we, as a species at the global level, don’t seem to be doing enough, fast enough.

The meeting made clear that the public sector alone can’t tackle climate change — the private sector has a huge role to play. As co-founder of a climate tech company, this is inspiring, motivating, and daunting. It reaffirms to me the importance of our work, and the importance of further developing partnerships with the public sector to make sure we all get this right, together, the first time.

This blog first appeared on the Sylvera website.

Samuel Gill is Co-founder and COO of Sylvera. Sam started his career in London working for top US law firms. He specialized in the formation and regulation of Investment Funds, working on a number of high-profile launches. More recently he focused on Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) products and has advised on major carbon credit issuances, which sparked his interest in carbon markets. He left law to co-found Sylvera and is now a regular speaker at industry events and a trusted advisor to multilateral institutions, government bodies and sustainability professionals.

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