Frequently Asked Questions

How can voluntary carbon markets (VCMs) contribute to corporate net zero climate action?  Does it lead to delay on action elsewhere?

  • High-quality, high-integrity carbon markets can make a meaningful contribution to the Paris Agreement goals while at the same time contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Credits should be used in addition to broader decarbonization strategies. To do this, carbon credits should be deployed to tackle emissions that sit outside the value chain of companies (also defined as ‘beyond-value-chain mitigation’ (BVCM)).
  • Carbon credits must be used in addition – and not to delay or displace – urgent and deep decarbonization that would otherwise happen today.
  • Credits form a critical tool that organizations can utilize to address residual emissions, emissions that are hard to abate, or emissions they haven’t yet been able to remove – e.g., if the technology is not yet available.

What is VCMI’s Claims Code and why is it needed?

  • Companies and other non-state actors must ramp up investment to help cut global emissions in half by 2030. That means acting now without delays or excuses.
  • VCMI has delivered a Claims Code of Practice to incentivize climate leadership.
  • Companies can make a “Carbon Integrity” Claim and get recognized for accelerating global net
    zero. The claim is verified using our Monitoring, Reporting and Assurance (MRA) Framework.
  • Voluntary carbon markets must have integrity. Integrity builds trust and confidence, and trust and confidence builds scale.

What is a high-integrity VCM?

  • Climate finance must increase five-fold annually to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Voluntary carbon markets can get private sector finance to the ground, fast.
  • VCMI’s Claims Code of Practice ensures integrity on the demand side. This means that companies use carbon credits in addition to – not instead of – decarbonization and make credible claims.
  • ICVCM Core Carbon Principles ensure integrity on the supply side. This means that carbon credits represent real, verified GHG reductions and removals, and apply robust environmental and social safeguards.
  • We can’t afford to have VCMs without integrity, risking greenwashing. The market must adopt VCMI and ICVCM end-to-end rules for integrity to address the faults of the past.

What are Carbon Integrity Claims?

  • Under VCMI’s Claims Code, companies can use carbon credits to make “Carbon Integrity” claims, to accelerate global net zero above and beyond science-aligned emissions cuts.
  • Silver, Gold, and Platinum “Carbon Integrity” claims recognize increasing climate achievement. Silver indicates the company has retired high-quality carbon credits equal to at least 10% of remaining emissions for a given year. This increases to at least 50% for Gold, and at least 100% for Platinum.
  • The “Carbon Integrity” claims are the first third-party verified claims about carbon credits that companies can make to demonstrate climate achievement.

How can companies substantiate a Carbon Integrity Claim?

  • The MRA Framework enables companies to substantiate a Carbon Integrity Claim. The Framework provides the information that must be disclosed and appropriately evaluated, evidenced, and verified.
  • Within the framework, companies provide information relating to the Claims Code’s Foundational Criteria, which establish best practice on corporate climate action, as well as key information about the carbon credits used to make a claim. This information is then verified by an independent third party.

What is the MRA framework?

  • VCMI’s Measurement, Reporting and Assurance (MRA) framework is its assurance process for Carbon Integrity Claims.
  • The MRA framework brings rigor to the Carbon Integrity Claims by ensuring that for each claim issued, underlying information is appropriately evaluated, evidenced, and verified.

What is the Scope 3 Flexibility Claim?

  • VCMI has launched the beta version of a new claim — called the ‘Scope 3 Flexibility’ Claim — as a practical step to accelerate corporate climate action.
  • Once finalized next year, the Scope 3 Flexibility Claim will enable companies to take responsibility for their scope 3 emissions (those which aren’t directly produced by the company, but which it has indirect responsibility over through its value chain), while getting on the path to net zero through use of high-quality carbon credits.

What does the Scope 3 Flexibility Claim roadmap involve?

A roadmap to finalize the Scope 3 Flexibility Claim by Q3 2024 has been released alongside the beta version of the new claim. This roadmap includes:

  • Developing tools to measure a company’s progress towards its emissions reduction targets and define if it is suitably “on-track”
  • Refining the criteria and guardrails of the new claim
  • Establishing a separate claim name and brand that is distinct from the “Carbon Integrity” claims, while incentivizing companies to make a “Carbon Integrity” claim.

How does the Claims Code prevent greenwashing?

  • The “Carbon Integrity” claims are the first third-party verified claims about carbon credits that companies can make to demonstrate climate achievement.
  • The Claims Code counters greenwashing and ‘greenhushing’ by telling companies how to use carbon credits to accelerate global net zero, above and beyond science-aligned emissions cuts.

What are the foundational criteria that companies must meet to make a Claim?

  • VCMI’s Claims Code is a comprehensive integrity framework which incorporates other standards — including GHGP, SBTi, CDP and ICVCM.
  • The foundational criteria require companies to have a climate transition plan, including science-aligned long-term and near-term emissions reductions targets to reach net-zero target no later than 2050.

How do claims encourage companies to increase climate finance? Can a claim be “downgraded?

  • Companies should make the highest “Carbon Integrity” claim they can to accelerate global net zero.
  • For each subsequent year after a company first makes a “Carbon Integrity” Silver or Gold claim, the percentage of carbon credits retired must increase for future claims to be viable.

Will VCMI allow the use of Article 6.4 credits to make a VCMI claim?

  • When it is operational, Article 6.4. will be a benchmark for quality. VCMI are following the negotiations closely and will review the implications of Article 6.4 outcomes.
  • Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is a carefully elaborated set of rules setting out how countries can cooperate to reach their climate commitments. Among other things, it enables them to authorize carbon credits for use in both voluntary and compliance carbon markets.
  • ICVCM’s CCPs complement Article 6 but do different things. ICVCM will assess carbon-crediting programs and approve them to issue high-integrity CCP-labeled credits. Both existing and new credits will be able to use the CCP label, provided they use methodologies ICVCM has approved.
  • ICVCM and Article 6 are well aligned. ICVCM will continue to support and engage with the 6.4 mechanism, to ensure a coherent approach to high integrity.

What does it mean when you say the Claims Code is operable and assurable?

  • Companies can complete all the steps outlined in the Claims Code.
  • From 28th November, companies will be able to make claims in line with the VCMI Claims Code of Practice.
  • The additional guidance will include important reporting guidance and infrastructure to effectively make a VCMI Claim.

How long did it take to prepare a thorough Claims Code?

  •  The Claims Code is the culmination of over 12 months of road testing by companies, public consultations, and multi-stakeholder collaboration, following the publication of the provisional Claims Code in June 2022.
  • The process has been informed by input from leading non-profits, VCMI’s Steering Committee, its high-level decision-making body, as well as guidance from VCMI’s Executive Advisory Group (EAG).
  • These bodies include experienced VCM voices, such as indigenous and civil society leaders, independent net zero experts, corporate sustainability leads, governments, regulators, and academics.
  • We believe this will pave the way towards improved regulation in the voluntary space that will drive increased action.

Who have you worked with to deliver the Claims Code?

  • We have run a collaborative, inclusive global multi-stakeholder process to develop the Claims Code – we have consulted a wide mix of IP&LC and civil society leaders, independent carbon market and net zero experts, corporate representatives, governments, regulators, and academics.
  • We have taken the guidance and advice of our Steering Committee and consulted with the 20 members of our Expert Advisory Group (EAG)
  • In addition, following the launch of the Provisional Claims Code in June 2022, we had over 130 responses to the subsequent consultation and nearly 70 companies take part in the road test.
  • Participants (from 38 countries) in our Country Contact group with knowledge and experience in carbon markets and climate finance have provided valuable insights and perspectives on voluntary carbon markets which has helped shape the Claims Code
  • A number of companies have joined the Early Adopters Program and are working closely with VCMI to pave the way for corporates to confidently make VCMI Claims and celebrate credible climate action.

How are you different to other initiatives such as ICVCM and SBTi?

  • VCMI is independent, but works closely with other initiatives, to bring the climate action landscape together.
  • All organizations have specific and important roles to play.
    • Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP): provides effective guidance for businesses on how they can measure and account for emissions.
    • Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi): provides methods to establish scientific baselines for emissions reduction pathways.
    • Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Markets (ICVCM): is establishing through its Core Carbon Principles (CCPs) a global benchmark that will enable buyers to identify high-integrity carbon credits.
    • Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP): provides the global environmental disclosure platform, supporting businesses to report, manage and track progress on their environmental impacts.

What are your plans to work with regulators in regions and countries (to enforce the Claims Code)?

  • The VCMI cannot enforce the Claims Code like a regulator but can withdraw the right to use a VCMI claim if it is shown to be used incorrectly.
  • All the requirements for making a VCMI claim have to be independently verified and publicly disclosed: this will enable stakeholders – including watchdog NGOs and the media – to judge whether a Claim has been made appropriately.
  • We are at a critical juncture. VCMI calls on standard setters to address governance gaps with us to mobilize demand in 2024.

What are the third-party verifiers for organizations making VCMI Claims?   

  • Throughout the process of developing the Code, we’ve worked with a wide range of assurance bodies globally. Each metric must be subject to an independent, third-party limited assurance to make a VCMI Claim.

Why does a company choose the category it applies for, rather than applying the best possible and waiting for VCMI to decide what it awards? 

  • Companies should seek the most ambitious Claim they can and strive for continuous improvement. There are clear distinctions between claims tiers.

If a company fails an application, will this be public?  

  • It is in our collective interests to recognize and reward ambitious action and credible climate claims.
  • It is at a company’s discretion if they want to share details of their claim. We will not publicly name companies that have failed to meet the criteria.

Why won’t VCMI allow offsetting as part of its Claims Code?

  • In the June Claims Code, we frame the use of carbon credits by companies as contributions above and beyond what they should be doing to decarbonize their businesses – as part of what is called beyond value chain mitigation (BVCM).
  • We state that carbon credits cannot be counted towards the achievement of within-value chain emissions reduction targets, but instead the most aspirational VCMI Claims in the Claims Code should represent a contribution to both the company’s climate goals and global efforts to mitigate climate change. We have defined contribution claims within the glossary in the Claims Code.

Why is VCMI not incentivizing the use of corresponding adjustments? 

  • Corresponding adjustments can play an important role as an ambition raising tool for global mitigation.
  • Credits used by companies to underpin a VCMI claim can, but do not need to be associated with a corresponding adjustment. This is because VCMI Claims silver, gold and platinum represent a contribution towards both a company’s climate goals and towards the collective global effort to reach net zero.
  • The VCMI Claims Code requires that corporates transparently/publicly disclose whether the carbon credits they have purchased have been authorized/correspondingly adjusted.

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