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About

VCMI is a multi-stakeholder platform to drive credible, net-zero aligned participation in voluntary carbon markets.

VCMI coalesces stakeholders around a shared vision for voluntary carbon markets to make a meaningful contribution to climate action and limit global temperature from rising to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels, while also supporting the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

It connects with, aligns, and amplifies initiatives that share the vision for high integrity voluntary carbon markets.

VCMI also focuses on key areas where there is a clear need for additional work.

This includes:

  • Promoting demand-side integrity to ensure meaningful use of carbon credits for voluntary purposes and the associated business case for scaling high integrity voluntary carbon markets
  • Promoting supply-side integrity and access as countries develop policy options and strategies to promote high integrity voluntary carbon markets, and engaging with supply-side integrity efforts to ensure transparency and assurance.

VCMI’s governance structure is designed to create transparency, build trust, and ensure a diverse range of stakeholders – including government, business, civil society, Indigenous Peoples organizations, and subject matter experts – have opportunities to input into the initiative.

Ten Principles for Voluntary Corporate Climate Action

Vision

Voluntary Carbon Markets will make a significant, measurable, and positive contribution to the transition of the global economy to a 1.5˚C future while also promoting inclusive, sustainable development in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

1.

Science-based action

2.

Comprehensive action

3.

Equity-oriented action

4.

Nature positive action

5.

Rapid action

6.

Scaled-up action

7.

Transparent action

8.

NDC-enabling action

9.

Consistent action

10.

Collective & predictable action

1. Science-based action

High integrity, high ambition private sector climate action is underpinned by the latest scientific consensus on safe upper limits for global warming. As such, the 1.5˚C Paris target is the North Star. Companies align with the science-based mitigation hierarchy, which means delivering emission reductions within their value chains (Scopes 1-3) is a first order priority. This entails the setting of short-term (e.g. 5 year), mid-term (e.g. 5-15 year) and long-term targets (up to mid-century). Different sectors may decarbonize at different trajectories that take into account the special features and conditions of the sector. , Climate targets and roadmaps are regularly reviewed and adjusted in line with the latest scientific consensus on the safe upper limits for global warming.

‘Additional action to finance emissions reductions beyond the company value chain through use of carbon credits – for example, to compensate for as yet unabated or for historic emissions – is in line with best practice standards to ensure they deliver real and quantifiable mitigation. Companies can achieve this by, e.g., (a) applying accurate, conservative baselines, (b) ensuring additionality, (c) including measures to ensure permanence, (d) minimizing and account for leakage, and (e) ensuring to avoid double counting between companies.’ Purchase of carbon credits that finance the protection of nature – tropical forests in particular – is a first-order investment priority over the next 10-20 years since this represents one of the largest, most cost-effective mitigation levers in our toolbox and is critically underfunded, putting the Paris Agreement targets at risk.

As we near mid-century and we make progress on decarbonizing the economy and addressing deforestation and other land-use change, company carbon credit purchases are increasingly made up of emission removal credits to ensure that any unabated emissions are removed in line with the requirements of the net zero global goal. Companies – particularly in harder-to-abate sectors – might start investing into negative emission technologies (both natural and engineered) from today to bring down the cost of removing residual emissions from the atmosphere by mid-century.

In summary, high ambition companies would 1) abate emissions across their value chains in line with a 1.5˚C pathway, 2) engage from today in the voluntary carbon market to finance additional climate mitigation to support the realization of the Paris Agreement temperature goals (prioritizing investments into tropical forest emissions reductions over the next 10-20 years), and 3) ramp up investments into negative emission technologies (natural and engineered) to ensure that any residual emissions at their long-term net zero target date can be neutralized.

For further guidance regarding abatement and neutralization, companies may refer to the Science Based Targets initiative.

2. Comprehensive action

Private sector climate targets and action are built upon accurate and complete GHG inventories in line with the requirements set out in the GHG Protocol. This means companies include all relevant sources of Scope 1 and 2 emissions within their target boundaries, including emissions from land use and land use change, and follow best practice guidance on inclusion of Scope 3 emissions within the target boundaries. For example the SBTi requires that where relevant Scope 3 emissions make up 40% or more of total Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, at least two thirds of Scope 3 emissions should be included in the target.

In addition to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and the SBTi, the framework for comprehensive action set forth by Climate Action 100+ provides a good starting point for VCMI’s principle on “comprehensive action”.

3. Equity-oriented action

Private sector climate action is consistent with achievement of broader SDGs relating to, e.g., poverty reduction, human development, climate adaptation, food security, biodiversity, land restoration, etc. This means that abatement pathways are based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change pathways that are aligned with the delivery of the SDGs – namely the Shared socio-economic pathway (SSP1) with no or limited overshoot. Moreover, companies consider the impacts of transitioning to a lower-carbon business model on their workers and communities.

Involvement in VCMs builds on partnerships between lower and higher income countries. This involves paying a fair price for carbon credits to account for the costs project developers incur to ensure high integrity supply.

Social safeguards that support healthy, inclusive, and resilient livelihoods and economies are applied to the sourcing of carbon credits. Corporate engagement should follow a rights-based approach that safeguards against any violations of human rights and respects the rights of local stakeholders, in particular, the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs). Engagement should also empower women, minorities, and other vulnerable groups. The involvement of IPLCs is recognized as particularly relevant in the context of nature-based climate solutions.

4. Nature positive action

Private sector climate action in general, including in the context of VCMs, is aligned with the need to bend the curve on biodiversity and move toward a ‘nature positive’ state of recovery and renewal since the accelerating destruction of nature and climate change are the twin emergencies threatening humanity today. This means reducing and eventually eliminating nature-based emissions from company value chains by, for example, ensuring that there is no conversion of natural ecosystems.

5. Rapid action

In line with the requirements of science, private sector action in the next 10 years is critical if we are to avert potential tipping points for example where carbon sinks turn into sources due to temperature rises. In recognition of this, businesses set and take action to realize both short-term targets (e.g., 5 years) as well as ambitious mid-term (e.g., 5-15 years) and longer-term targets (e.g., mid-century). Priorities in the short- to mid-term includes (but is not limited to) the following:

  • Ending deforestation and conversion of other natural ecosystems
  • Ending the sale of new fossil fuel boilers by 2025
  • Ensuring all new buildings are zero‐carbon‐ready by 2030
  • Increasing renewable energy capacity by 4 times by 2030
  • Halting sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars by 2035
  • Phasing out all unabated coal and oil power plants by 2040

6. Scaled-up action

Private finance is critical to delivering the Paris Agreement. Therefore, businesses must raise their ambition to make significant investments in climate mitigation outside their value chains as a supplement to within value-chain abatement investments (but not as a replacement). This can be achieved, for example, through supporting VCMs in countries where they operate, where they source commodities, or in countries which are covered by corporate supply chains more broadly.

In this way, VCMs have the potential to channel significant private sector finance over the next three decades into economies with high nature-based climate mitigation potential (most notably in low- and middle-income countries), as well as into other cost-effective mitigation options. This private sector finance is desperately needed – particularly for natural climate solutions, and more specifically, tropical forest protection. As an illustration of the potential scale of impact, if the Fortune Global 500 companies committed to compensating 100% of their unabated Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2025, demand for carbon credits would reach to ~5 GtCO2e in that year alone. At an illustrative price of $10/tCO2e, this would cost the Global 500 $25 billion – less than 0.1% of their total revenues and less than 1.5% of total profits.

7. Transparent action

There is a wide discrepancy in terms of the scope and ambition of company “net zero” targets – with different emission sources and gases included, different timelines, different emission reduction trajectories, and different approaches to compensation and use of carbon credits. Companies increase transparency about their approaches following criteria as set out in a recent article in Nature. Companies also implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) to effectively report on climate-related risks and opportunities to investors and other stakeholders. Once published, companies would also look to adopt the recommendations of the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures. Companies are also open and transparent about lessons learned as they take action on climate – i.e., what worked and what did not work.

High integrity and high ambition claims that relate to the purchase and use of carbon credits for voluntary purposes meet the following criteria:

  • a) Must be true and accurate.
  • b) Must be clear and relevant to their target audience.
  • c) Must be substantiated with objective, transparent, and up-to-date data.
  • d) Must avoid overstating the beneficial environmental impacts of the activities.
  • e) Must avoid creating a false impression or hiding trade-offs.
  • f) Must refer to voluntary actions or achievements that go beyond complying with existing legislation or standard business practice.

8. NDC-enabling action

Companies accelerate national governments’ efforts to raise the ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, channeling long-term finance toward actions that achieve and enhance NDC implementation efforts. Companies inform governments of VCM projects and initiatives and align VCM activity with government policies. Companies also consider providing finance in support of strengthening governance and investments in creating national and subnational enabling environments, readiness, and implementation capacity. In addition to supporting NDCs, companies advocate for robust compliance markets and carbon-pricing mechanisms.

9. Consistent action

While not directly relevant to VCMs, it is critical that companies ensure their lobbying efforts are not contrary to their commitments and that the powerful industry associations, broad-based business coalitions, and lobbying groups of which they are members act consistently with their company-specific commitments.

A good place to start for U.S. based companies is to adhere to the AAA Framework which sets out actions to execute a science-based climate policy agenda. Another useful resource is the Influence Map corporate climate lobbying platform, which provides clarity on and measurement of how companies influence policy needed to address climate change.

10. Collective & predictable action

Achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement requires a collective effort. No company or country can achieve these goals on its own. There is evidence that collective climate action can lead to results where individual companies working in isolation have failed. For example, the Soy Moratorium in the Brazilian Amazon and the Africa Palm Oil Initiative have helped drive industry-wide shifts to reduce deforestation in their targeted regions.

In recognition of the power of collective action, companies work together with governments and NGOs from low-, middle- and high-income countries to act on climate change. Transitioning to a low-carbon, nature positive future requires sustained, collective action across society. Regarding VCMs, this can be achieved by building predictability of future voluntary demand for carbon credits to give entities confidence to increase the supply of credits in the market. Companies can also pool resources to aggregate voluntary demand for carbon credits to increase certainty and help drive systemic change and meaningful action against the climate crisis.

Proposed role of VCMI in supporting global efforts to achieve the Paris Agreement

Initial priorities of the VCMI Initiative

The Paris Agreement

Global goal to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C

1. Vision for The Voluntary Carbon Market

VCMs make a significant, measurable, and positive contribution to the transition of the global economy to a 1.5°C future while also promoting inclusive, sustainable development in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

2. Ten Principles for High Integrity and High Ambition Voluntary Corporate Climate Action

VCMI proposes Ten Principles which relate to both the supply-side access and demand-side of the voluntary carbon market and are intended to guide country access strategies and corporate climate action and to support the vision for the VCM.

3. Supply-side Integrity and VCM Access Strategies

VCMI will monitor, collaborate with, and engage in efforts to ensure supply side integrity and assist low and moderate income countries develop and implement VCM Access Strategies.

4. Claims Categorisation, Utilisation and Supporting Transparency Criteria

VCMI proposes high-level categorisation and utilisation scheme for claims and associated criteria that can be used by companies to transparently communicate how carbon credits are being utilised as part of their climate mitigation strategies.

Governance

VCMI draws on the expertise and input of a diverse range of stakeholders from civil society, academia, government, business and other relevant initiatives focused on high integrity voluntary carbon markets. The VCMI governance framework is set out below:

VCMI Governance Framework

Grants Committee

Rachel Kyte
Co-Chair, VCMI Steering Committee Read More
Tariye Gbadegesin
Co-Chair, VCMI Steering Committee Read More
Kate Hampton
VCMI Steering Committee Read More
Pedro Moura Costa
VCMI Steering Committee Read More
Manuel Pulgar-Vidal
VCMI Steering Committee Read More
Feike Sijbesma
VCMI Steering Committee Read More
Mark Fulton
VCMI Steering Committee Read More
Usha Rao-Monari
VCMI Steering Committee Read More

The Country Contact Group provides a forum for governments representing both demand and supply-side perspectives to:

  • Provide insights and perspectives on VCMI work areas and processes, helping actively shape VCMI’s strategic objectives and outcomes;
  • Promote peer-to-peer exchange and learning, as well as interactions with other key stakeholders such as corporate buyers;
  • Engage with VCMI to develop VCM ‘Access Strategies’, which is an offer from VCMI to support an initial handful of countries to identify opportunities for accessing direct investment into country-specific mitigation action, aligning voluntary carbon market finance flows with national climate policy and finance priorities.

The Expert Advisory Group (EAG) provides the function of:

  • Serving as the primary means of channeling the technical and legal advice from a diverse array of subject matter experts to the VCMI Steering Committee;
  • Considering feedback from key stakeholders in response to the recommendations contained in the VCMI Consultation Report and recommending changes and/or additions to those recommendations;
  • Considering feedback from key stakeholders to recommend whether any refinements should be made to the VCMI draft principles and claims guidance, as well as to recommend options for the VCMI Steering Committee for institutionalizing a more permanent governance structure.
Kelley Kizzier
EAG Co-Chair Read More
Brenda Brito
EAG Member Read More
Craig Ebert
EAG Member Read More
Donna Lee
EAG Member Read More
Hugh Salway
EAG Member Read More
James Smith
EAG Member Read More
Maria Netto
EAG Member Read More
Vikram Widge
EAG Member Read More

The Stakeholder Consultation Contact Group is responsible for:

  • Serving as the principal means by which VCMI engages with the diverse array of stakeholders that are interested in advancing VCMI goals;
  • Gathering, compiling, organizing, and conveying stakeholder feedback, input, and perspectives to other VCMI components;
  • Facilitating dialogues and discussions on specific topics organized in a variety of ways to ensure focused and constructive engagements by the diverse stakeholders interested in VCMI.

To register interest in future VCMI multi-stakeholder consultations, entities can provide their details on the feedback form of the Consultation Report.

The VCMI Secretariat is housed at Meridian Institute and is responsible for:

  • Providing a central coordination and programme management function for the VCMI Initiative;
  • Fiduciary oversight of donor funds and grant reporting;
  • Coordination and facilitation of the Country Contact Groups and Stakeholder Engagement Contact Groups to ensure a broad and inclusive consultation process underpins VCMI’s work.
Laurie Ristino
Co-Executive Director Read More
Mark Kenber
Interim Co-Executive Director Read More
Melissa Pinfield
Senior Advisor Read More
Jimena Solano
Mediator and Program Associate Read More
Audrey Burns
Mediator and Program Associate Read More
Liz Duxbury
Senior Project Coordinator Read More

Next Steps

  • 1
    March – June 2021

    Inception phase (desk research, stakeholder mapping, interviews and analysis, report drafting)

  • 2
    July 2021

    Launch of the Consultation Report

  • 3
    July – October 2021

    Consultation and refinement phase

  • 4
    October 2021

    COP26 Report

  • 5
    November 2021

    Communications around COP26

  • 6
    Post-COP 26

    Consolidation and implementation phase

Code of Conduct

VCMI Code of Ethics and Conflict of Interest Policy

This policy statement sets forth the expectations and standards of conduct for Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative (VCMI) staff, Steering Committee, Expert Advisory Group and any other VCMI working group members, and contractors with decision-making authority related to the work of VCMI. The integrity of the guidance and recommendations developed by and through VCMI depends on adherence to these ethical standards and related procedures to ensure transparency and avoid any actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

Accordingly, VCMI staff, committee and working group members, and contractors will:

  • Conduct themselves in an honest and ethical manner, including the ethical handling of actual or apparent conflict of interest.
  • Ensure, to the best of their ability, that their work and actions comply with applicable government laws, rules, and regulations.
  • Proactively promote ethical behavior among subordinates and peers and encourage a culture where everyone is expected to act responsibly, with due care, without misrepresenting or omitting material facts or allowing independent judgment to be compromised.
  • Promptly report violations of this Code to the Director of the Secretariat. Confidentiality of individuals reporting violations of these standards will be maintained whenever possible. Retaliation against individuals reporting a violation or a potential violation of this policy will not be tolerated.

Conflicts of Interest Definition and Reporting

VCMI staff, committee and working group members, and contractors shall be considered to have a conflict of interest if such an individual (or organization which they represent) has existing or potential financial or other interests which might impair, or reasonably appear to impair, the individual’s independent, unbiased judgment in discharge of his or her responsibilities to VCMI.

All individuals shall disclose to the VCMI Secretariat any possible conflict of interest at the earliest practicable time and recuse themselves from relevant decision-making if the Secretariat determines there is an actual conflict of interest or the integrity of the process would be best served by recusal. The Secretariat will maintain a registry of identified and reported conflicts to help prevent conflicts and ensure transparency in VCMI’s work.

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