V-Carbon News: The Week in Voluntary Carbon

This week, carbon market players will converge on Washington for IETA’s Carbon Forum North America, where the big questions for panelists will pertain to California’s emerging carbon market and EPA regulations – and also their impact on the voluntary carbon market’s pre-compliance activity.

NOTE: This article has been reprinted from Ecosystem Marketplace’s Voluntary Carbon newsletter. You can receive this summary of global news and views from the world of voluntary carbon automatically in your inbox by clicking here.

14 March 2011 | This week, carbon market players will converge on Washington for IETA’s Carbon Forum North America, where the big questions for panelists will pertain to California’s emerging carbon market and EPA regulations – and also their impact on the voluntary carbon market’s pre-compliance activity.


But even as conference-goers prepare to grapple with the wonkier, compliance side of carbon policy (think “best available control technologies” or reconciling offset and REC policies in California), the “purely voluntary” side of the voluntary carbon market has recently birthed a number of exciting developments in the last two weeks.

News in this issue demonstrates that the voluntary carbon market – which began as a marketplace for buyers to voluntarily offset their carbon usage – is still pursuing its original mandate to channel finance into market and project innovations.


Take for instance the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association’s recent proposal of a platform to trade a commoditized biomethane carbon-credit product, the Biomethane Credit (BMC).  

Or Carbon Trade Exchange’s late-2010 deals with American Carbon Registry (ACR) and the Gold Standard that are now pushing the voluntary third-party standards’ credits onto its global spot trading platform.

See also this week the first tertiary abatement project in the US to be listed with the Climate Action Reserve; an airline offsetting scheme that embeds offset purchases into its ticket prices; an offset-your-purchase online widget; the first advertising scheme for which participants are paid in offsets; a carbon-neutral home insurance policy – and more!

Mary Grady, director of marketing for American Carbon Registry (ACR) observes, “We’re still seeing the voluntary market really pick up pace, innovating all kinds of new ways for emissions reductions to occur.”  

ACR is one of a handful of voluntary third-party standards, however, with methodologies that market observers anticipate could soon be tapped to inform “compliance-grade” protocols for the California scheme.

Incentives are high for this kind of recognition from regulators, as Grady points out. “Recognition would mean a lot for the groups we’ve been working with to develop our protocols and methodologies – suddenly there would be a different value in the market for the work they’re doing.”


Prices for California pre-compliance credits under the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) are currently comparable those seen for some of the more charismatic “purely voluntary” credits like Gold Standard (think $7-$11 for CA-eligible CAR credits).  

Given this, it’s no wonder that even as the purely voluntary market continues to expand its offerings, some third-party standards are making the case for their appeal to a broader array of markets – including the compliance markets.

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V-Carbon News

Voluntary Carbon

ACR’s own carbon war room

IETA conference-goers won’t be the only carbon community converging in Washington DC next week. Just today, the American Carbon Registry (ACR) posted the names and bios of its newly formed Advisory Council, which will meet for their inaugural meeting next week in the Capitol City. “We are delighted to welcome such a distinguished group of professionals to the ACR Advisory Council,” says Mary Grady, ACR director of business development. “Their strategic guidance will be invaluable for ACR to achieve its mission of harnessing markets to improve the environment.” The Council is comprised of movers and shakers from the carbon and conservation spaces, including Carbon War Room CEO Jigar Shah and Cynthia L. Cory, Director of Environmental Affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation.

   – Read more from the American Carbon Registry


The standard formally known as Voluntary releases Version 3

Earlier this week the freshly renamed Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) announced the release of the streamlined VCS Version 3 Program documents, now online and available for immediate use. Version 3 incorporates input from many stakeholders and aims to reflect the VCS’ learning over the past several years, hundreds of verified projects and millions of issued VCUs. Those currently using VCS 2007.1 will have a six-month grace period to transition to Version 3 requirements – meaning that all project documents wholly or partially reliant upon VCS 2007.1 must be issued on or before September 8, 2011 to be valid. Webinars introducing stakeholders to the new VCS Version 3 documents will be held on March 22 at 0300 GMT and 1500 GMT to capture all time zones.

   – Read more from the VCS
   – Read more from the VCS Version 3 page


Regulators embrace lessons of voluntary carbon

The global carbon markets began quietly in the late 1980s as part of a voluntary effort to save rainforests, but these small, voluntary efforts were quickly eclipsed – and often dismissed – when the Kyoto Protocol and compliance markets arrived a decade later.   Now, however, it’s the compliance markets that are turning to the voluntary markets for guidance, as regulators and voluntary market players rush to meet halfway. This Ecosystem Marketplace article explores the ways by which voluntary third-party standards are influencing – and also benefiting from – compliance markets’ emerging offsetting programs.

   – Read more at Ecosystem Marketplace Article


Digesting a project-specific platform

Even as the voluntary carbon market digests mixed news about trading volumes and crossed regulatory signals, one industry group in the UK is fully confident in the market’s ability to channel meaningful project finance. The Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) last week proposed the creation of a company that will list and trade a commoditized biomethane carbon credit product, the Biomethane Credit (BMC). The ADBA hopes that the concept will offer “grid-injecting” biomethane producers an additional revenue stream and increase the volume of energy generated from anaerobic digestion. The intention is also for the tradeable BMCs to be recognized as compliance-grade credits under mandatory emissions trading schemes – and also as high-quality offsets in the voluntary carbon market.

   – Read more from the Engineer
   – Read more from the Low Carbon Economy


Voluntary carbon credits hit the spot

It’s a busy time for the Carbon Trade Exchange (CTX), the world’s first global platform for spot trading voluntary carbon credits. Next week, the CTX interface with ACR will go live. Says Wayne Sharpe, CEO of CTX, “We are proud to interface with a U.S. carbon icon,” adding that “it’s the first time ACR has ever had Emissions Reduction Tonnes (ERTs) on an exchange and that’s exciting as things develop more in the US market.” Just last week, CTX also saw the first Gold Standard credits pushed onto its platform – Gold Standard and CTX joined forces in December 2010. And now – making it even easier for buyers to access these new credit types – CTX can facilitate transactions via credit card.




Carbon experts set up camp at South Pole

South Pole Carbon Assets, that is. In the last month, the offsetting company has brought on board two new faces to the team that earned South Pole the recent title of Environmental Finance’s 2011 Best Project Developer. James Emanuel joined South Pole in February after his former employer Archer Daniel Midlands backtracked on plans for an environmental markets division. Emanuel will serve as Sales Director, helping the company to expands its investment services. Anja Kollmuss – who developed the ever-useful Carbon Offset Research and Education (CORE) website – joins South Poles as its new Head of Consulting. “I am excited to tap into South Pole’s extensive on-the-ground experience in implementing high quality climate projects to inform my research,” she says of her new position.

   – Read the press release
   – Read the press release
   – Read more from CORE


N2O abatement born in the USA

Project developer ClimeCo America is teaming up with Rentech Energy Midwest Corporation (REMC) to say NO to N2O, in what represents the very first N2O tertiary abatement project in the US to be listed with CAR. The project will use a tertiary catalyst system designed by CRI Catalysts to substantially reduce N2O emissions from REMC’s nitrogen fertilizer plant in East Dubuque, Illinois. “REMC prides itself in being the first N2O tertiary abatement project installed in the United States and our actions are in concert with Rentech’s leadership in low carbon alternative energy technologies.  REMC has partnered with ClimeCo due to their full service approach and N2O abatement market leadership,” said John Ambrose, REMC President. Once the project’s emissions reductions are successfully verified by an independent verification body, the Reserve will issue carbon offsets equivalent to the metric tonnes of CO2e reduced.

   – Read the press release


Little green offsets

Portland-based startup Little Green Tree has simplified the process of online offsetting by creating a widget for retailers to use on their websites. A simple click on the Little Green Tree allows EmissionsCalc to estimate the shipping emissions associated with purchases based on factors like weight, transportation method and distance. Proceeds go to offset investment companies like Arbor Environmental Alliance, which supports a range of environmental project types. According to Little Green Tree’s website, “We’re a registered professional fundraiser that helps organizations and people buy and sell carbon offsets. We think carbon offsets are one of the best ways to help the world, but so far no one has made it sufficiently easy and accessible for people to understand how and why they should be purchased.”

   – Read more from Digital Trends
   – Read more from Little Green Tree


A corny commodity contract

Corn-specific carbon? It may sound odd, but a recent article by Dawson Williams – Director of Carbon Advisory Services at the GLC Group – suggests that a new commodity contract that captures the market value of new varieties may not be too far-fetched. The development of several new Climate Action Reserve (CAR) offset methodologies for agriculture production, as well as genetically modified agricultural products – such as Syngenta’s new corn variety that could reduce emissions from ethanol production – point to the prospect of new crop contracts for traits and carbon offsets. Such contracts could capture the value of both the commodity and the carbon, making aggregation and cross-hedging of prices easier.

   – Read the Biofuels Digest article


EL AL’s (in)voluntary offsetting takes flight

Israel’s national airline is piloting a scheme in which the cost of offsetting is automatically rolled into ticket prices – at no extra cost to passengers (and with no option to opt out). Starting with EL AL’s London – Tel Aviv route, customers who book online at elal.co.uk will see a tree planted in Israel by the non-profit Jewish National Fund (JNF). According to EL AL, the return flight generates 0.64 tCO2 – more than offset by the 1 tCO2 that they approximate to be sequestered by each tree during its lifetime. “Each EL AL customer who books online can now fly in the knowledge that together, we are working towards clearer skies,” said EL AL CEO Uri Danor.

   – Read more from Business Traveller
   – Read more from just4airlines


Sit back, relax, and watch the credits roll in

Want to help preserve the environment but can’t spare the cash? Quest Media Network has launched a duel sustainability learning and eco-action website that allows users to support important causes using only their time – not their wallets. MyCarbonQuest.com features instructional videos preempted by short commercials that provide sponsorship funding to organizations such as Trees for the Future, which delivers trees and training on sustainable harvesting practices to developing nations. Users can choose to earn either trees or carbon offsets – and can track their progress using their email or Facebook login information. According to MyCarbonQuest user Jenna, the website provides “valuable information about important topics for me, and trees or carbon credits for the planet. It’s a win, win!”

   – Read the press release


Don’t just insure, offset!

Two Canuck companies have teamed up to offer British Columbia (BC) homeowners an innovative way to reduce risk to both their homes and the planet – a carbon neutral home insurance policy. Offsetters and Optimum West Insurance Company recently rolled out the Optimum Green-Home Extension, which extends a conventional home insurance policy with up to $10,000 of additional coverage to replace damaged items with more eco-friendly options. The product also allows brokers to estimate and offset annual household carbon footprints. “We’re proud to partner with industry-leaders like Optimum West,” said Kari Grist, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Offsetters. “With this product, Optimum West is demonstrating how organizations can help individuals find innovative ways to take responsibility for their carbon footprint and take action on climate change.”

   – Read the press release


Reduce & Retire: The Latest on Carbon Neutral

Fair and carbon-balanced

Despite claims by Republicans and many Fox News commentators that climate change regulations will destroy the economy, News Corporation – owner of Fox News – recently announced that it’s joining the ranks of the carbon neutral. According to the Carbon Disclosure Project, News Corp. ranked first among participating media companies, receiving an ‘A’ for carbon performance. “We made a bold commitment in 2007 to embed the values of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability into all of our businesses – for the benefit of our communities and our bottom line,” said Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corporation, in a memo to employees. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson had nothing but kind words for the company, calling the move “good for business.”

   – Read more from the Hill
   – Read more from Environmental Leader
   – Read more from FOX


GOGREEN or go home

Barclays Capital is banking on DHL’s GOGREEN Carbon Neutral service to offset the emissions generated by their international courier services throughout Asia Pacific – representing the bank’s first region-wide carbon offset program. The DHL GOGREEN Carbon Neutral service invests in certified carbon management programs including biomass, hydro and wind – verified annually by SGS – and has offset 33,420 kg for Barclays since June 2010. “As a group, Barclays has serious long-term global sustainability goals and to achieve those we need to partner with businesses that have robust and innovative environmental policies and services, such as DHL Express. DHL GOGREEN is a vital step on our journey towards reducing our global carbon footprint,” said Andrew Watt, Head of Corporate Real Estate Services, Asia Pacific at Barclays Capital.

   – Read more from Business Standard
   – Read more from India Infoline Ltd.


Carbon neutral crossing

The Panama Canal is more than just a marvelous feat of engineering – by 2014, it’s set to become the world’s most famous carbon neutral waterway! The initiative was announced last week by German Alberto Zubieta, the administrator of the famous crossing, during the “Panama: Where the World Meets,” conference and advertising campaign. Carbon emissions will be offset by reforesting 20,000 ha of land located near the canal. According to Zubieta, the Panama Canal Authority is working with Panama’s private sector and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute “to gauge the effect of planting trees native and nonnative to the area.”

   – Read more from the Tico Times
   – Read more from the Panama Blog


Climate North America

Weird science

It was a dark day for US climate policy yesterday, as a bill that would block the EPA from regulating GHG emissions was passed by the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. The controversial Energy Tax Prevention Bill – authored by Republican Representatives Fred Upton and Ed Whitfield – would overturn the EPA ruling that GHG emissions present a threat to human health and can therefore be regulated under the Clean Air Act. The bill will be scheduled for a full vote on the House floor within weeks before moving to the Senate – where it is expected to face significant opposition from Democrats. Many Republicans continue to deny the scientific evidence for climate change, insisting that the science is “not settled” and accusing experts of holding “elitist and arrogant views.”

   – Read more from Reuters
   – Read more from BusinessGreen
   – Read more from the Guardian


“Neither man nor cow…”

RGGI announced today the results of its latest auction, which yielded $83.4 million in revenues for states to invest in clean energy and job creation. Even so, it seems innavitable that New Hampshire will make its exeunt from the RGGI program (Governor Jim Lynch will be unable to veto the program repeal bill). In response, RGGI supporters are questioning the decision – including former Vice President Al Gore, who expressed his concerns in his latest blog. “Members of the legislative chamber made a number of statements that were especially disturbing,” he posted, pointing to comments that echo those heard this week from House Republicans – like the statement made by NH Deputy Majority Leader Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson), who said of his vote, “Neither man nor cow is responsible for global warming.” The Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity was responsible for flooding state decision-makers with robocalls ahead of the vote.

   – Read more from Carbon Positive
   – Read more from the Hill
   – Read more from the Wonk Room


Kyoto & Beyond

European market gets back to business

Things are slowly creeping back to normal in the European carbon market… but they’re not out of the woods yet. Although some exchanges have reopened, both ICE Futures Europe and the GreenX exchange remain closed to spot trading, with Climex closing its operations for good (see “Carbon Finance” section for the latest on Climex). The European commission has already approved restarting 15 of the 30 EU registries shut down after January’s computer hacking attacks – with all but two likely to get regulatory approval to resume operations by March 14. In other news, it was recently reported that some of the controversial industrial gas credits banned by the EU from 2013 could be allowed to enter the EU ETS by way of bilateral deals between individual countries.

   – Read more from Reuters
   – Read more from BusinessGreen
   – Read more from Bloomberg


PoA RAMP up in Mexico City

A new UN pilot scheme may offer an unlikely solution to reducing emissions – Mexican fridges. Developed by RAMP Carbon, the scheme will see retrofitting devices installed on the fridges of a restaurant chain in order to increase efficiency. Rather than charging the chain up front for the technology, it will repay the cost out of the money saved in electricity bills. “By removing the up-front cost, and structuring repayments out of demonstrated energy savings, we are trying to remove two significant barriers preventing access to energy efficiency technology in developing countries.” said Phil Cohn, Ramp Carbon’s founder. RAMP employed the UN’s Programme of Activities provisions to develop the project. This new type of program – developed in part to address criticisms that the CDM was open only to large, individual projects – is also designed to take a more grass-roots approach to emissions reductions.  

   – Read the Guardian article


North Korea comes clean

Kim Jong-Il’s impoverished communist state is desperately seeking to earn some cold, hard cash – through clean energy? It might not be what you’d expect from the nuclear weapon wielding nation, but it’s true. North Korea is hoping to generate UN-backed carbon offsets from a series of hydro power projects under the CDM. The nation is currently seeking approval for three proposed 7-8 MW projects, which – according to Beijing-based lawyer and GHG project specialist Tom Luckock – could each yield about 23,000 offsets a year. But the demand for North Korean CERs remains questionable. “Even if they open up, who in the world wants to pay for North Korea that is blamed for its nuclear weapons program?” said Choi Soo-young,  senior researcher at Korea Institute for National Unification.

   – Read more from Reuters
   – Read more from Foreign Policy
   – Read more from AFP


Aviation’s carbon cap flies high

The aviation industry’s soaring emissions will be put in check next year, as airlines join the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). The European Commission announced this week that the sector will have the market’s second highest carbon cap, at 213 million metric tons in 2012 and 208.5 million metric tons in 2013. “Firm action is needed,” climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a statement. “Emissions from aviation are growing faster than from any other sector, and all forecasts indicate they will continue to do so under business as usual conditions.” Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that in 2012, airlines will add 32 million tons of demand for EU carbon allowances – valued at €508 million at today’s prices.

   – Read more from Reuters
   – Read more from Environmental Leader
   – Read more from Reuters


Global Policy Update

You can go your own way

Well, that’s the approach to national emissions reductions being undertaken by some Asian countries. Japan is vying for a new carbon offset scheme that would use bilateral deals to invest in clean energy projects in developing countries – allowing the nation to meet its GHG reduction targets though a more user-friendly system than the CDM. Although Japan wants the new system to complement the existing UN mechanism, the UN’s top climate official has her reservations. “I’m not going to say it’s impossible but I think it’s very complicated to do that,” said Christiana Figueres. “It probably unnecessarily complicates the life of those countries.” Meanwhile, China is preparing to launch an energy cap-and-trade scheme to reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions. The system will be part of the nation’s efforts to cut carbon intensity by 40-45 percent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels.

   – Read more from Reuters
   – Read more from Industrial Fuels and Power
   – Read more from Reuters


Carbon farming poor as dirt…

… at least for now, according to Australian climate change expert Ross Garnaut. In his updated Transforming Rural Land Use paper, Garnaut suggests that farmers under the government’s voluntary Carbon Farming Initiative won’t be getting the full value for their credits if the system is not linked to an emissions trading scheme. “I don’t think (take-up) will be very large,” said Garnaut. “It’s potentially very large, potentially transformative, but to unlock that value there’ll need to be a market for the offsets, for the credits.” There has been much confusion about Australia’s carbon pricing system – is it a tax, or an emissions trading scheme? In fact, some analysts say it’s both: an emissions trading scheme that will initially behave like a tax via a fixed permit price – though when the transition will take place remains uncertain.  

   – Read more from the Sydney Morning Herald
   – Read more from ABC
   – Read more from the Sydney Morning Herald


Go Taiwa-neutral

The tiny island state of Taiwan has big plans for sustainability – including the establishment of a carbon neutrality management platform to help organizations, products, services and activities to achieve net-zero emissions. “The platform will provide information on carbon neutrality and allow the public to register and announce carbon neutral actions,” said Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Stephen Shu-hung Shen in his opening remarks at the International Conference on Targeting Carbon Neutrality held in Taipei this week. According to Shen, carbon neutrality can be achieved by balancing emissions with reductions achieved elsewhere – such as carbon offsets.  

   – Read the Taiwan Today article


Carbon Finance

And another two bite the dust

Climex and APX-ENDEX will soo

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