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The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) is a carbon credit technique used to give credits to initiatives that reduce carbon emissions. Businesses are more aware than ever of the impact they can have on the world and the environment in terms of their carbon footprint. So naturally, businesses all over the world are keen to find ways of reducing their carbon emissions and becoming more sustainable.
Back in 2012, Marks & Spencer became the first major retailer to go carbon-neutral thanks to credits earned under the Verified Carbon Standard, with many other retailers, such as the Co-operative Group, following suit.
But what is the Verified Carbon Standard, and how can it help your business reduce its carbon footprint, or better yet, get rid of it completely? Here we answer 7 questions about carbon offsets standards and carbon offset verification you may have about the Verified Carbon Standard.
The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program is the most popular carbon credit scheme in the world. It directs funding towards initiatives that lessen and eliminate emissions, enhances livelihoods, and safeguard the environment. Almost one billion tonnes of carbon and other GHG emissions have been reduced or eliminated from the environment because of VCS programmes. A vital and always-changing part of the continuous endeavour to safeguard our shared environment is the VCS Program.
The VCS Program is bringing new organisations and people into the voluntary carbon market as well as many compliance markets and giving them the confidence to participate. It does this by fusing scientific rigour and transparency with innovative thinking.
Buyers of credits issued by the Verified Carbon Standard Program are assured that their purchase had the desired effect; sellers of carbon credits seek markets with quality control guarantees, which aid in attracting a healthy pool of buyers.
The VCS ensures that emission-reduction projects are delivering on their promise to reduce carbon emissions using a rigorous set of rules and requirements. VCS projects cover a wide range of sectors, including renewable energy, waste handling, agriculture, mining, transport, and forestry, to name a few. Once a project is certified, it can be given tradable GHG credits, which can then be sold on the open market and ‘retired’ by individuals and businesses to offset their own carbon emissions.
Although energy efficiency and other measures implemented within a business will make a huge dent in its carbon footprint, it’s very unlikely that these alone will get rid of their carbon emissions completely. If businesses want to get rid of their carbon footprint in its entirety, they need to look further afield. Marks & Spencer had the same issue but were able to offset the carbon emissions they couldn’t neutralize themselves by supporting a project in Kenya working towards protecting a patch of endangered rainforest – a project that, incidentally, was VCS-certified.
Projects can offset greenhouse gases in three main ways. They can work at removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere - an example of this would be planting trees. They could also avoid the creation of carbon emissions in the first place, for example, renewable energy. They could even remove and destroy carbon emissions altogether, such as by removing methane gas from wastewater for use for fuel.
Once greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere, they quickly spread around the world, so whether you’re supporting a cookstoves project in Kenya, a reforestation project in Cameroon you’re still doing your bit to tackle climate change.
To be considered for the VCS, projects must adhere to a set of strict rules and requirements. They outline the standards and processes which all projects must follow to be certified. Once certified, all VCS projects must face audits by qualified independent third parties and Verra staff to ensure that standards are met. The program is also supported a multi-stakeholder body called VCS Program Advisory Group, which ensures the VCS is operating effectively to combat climate change. Details about certified VCS projects are listed publicly in the Verra Registry, which enables the transparent listing of information on projects, issued and retired units, and enables the trading of units.
It would be easy for projects to claim that they are working properly at reducing carbon emissions if this is not the case. And without legislation in place to make sure these projects are checked and audited, who’s to know for sure?
If you choose to support a project which operates under a standard like the VCS, you know that the project has undergone strict rules to be certified and continues to be monitored for best practices. Having regulations in place means that high standards can be achieved and maintained, which will ensure carbon reduction projects are sustainable and efficient, and above all, trustworthy.
This is a decision that only you can make. On the one hand, if we buy up all the cheap offsets available, more money will be put into the most efficient emission reductions. And this would cause a price increase, driving even more money into more expensive technologies. However, investing in high-quality carbon offsets will have a bigger impact on biodiversity, common welfare, and the environment. But it’s up to you to weigh up the argument either way and make an informed choice.
We can all put measures in place to reduce our own carbon footprint, but for businesses looking to offset the remaining carbon emissions they can’t get rid of internally, supporting an emission-reduction project is a great way to do this. And by choosing a project which has been certified by the Verified Carbon Standard, you have peace of mind knowing that your remaining emissions have been stamped out and you are truly carbon-neutral, which is an amazing feeling.
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