The Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM) has launched its updated Core Carbon Principles (CCP) and a Programme-level Assessment Framework, which set rigorous thresholds on disclosure and sustainable development for high-integrity carbon credits.

Voluntary carbon markets – worth around $2bn – are markets where carbon credits are purchased, usually by organisations, for voluntary use rather than to comply with legally binding emissions reduction obligations.

The CCPs are designed to help these markets grow, without compromising carbon credit quality.

They are intended to provide a readily identifiable benchmark for high-integrity carbon credits which create real, verifiable climate impact.

According to the ICVCM, the new standards should reduce confusion, overcome market fragmentation, and give buyers confidence they are funding projects making a genuine impact on emissions.

The new CCPs are accompanied by the first part of the ICVCM’s Assessment Framework, which provides detailed criteria for assessing whether carbon-crediting programmes are eligible for the CCP label.

As a whole, the criteria require programmes to publish comprehensive information in an accessible manner so all stakeholders can understand how projects issuing CCP-labelled carbon credits impact emissions, society and the environment.

There should be disclosure by programmes on how each project calculates and quantifies its emissions impact, and how it assesses additionality and social and environmental impacts. This should include the spreadsheets each project uses to calculate its impact and set a baseline.

The ICVCM said its criteria break new ground by requiring programmes to ensure high-integrity credits come from projects with robust social and environmental safeguards whichdeliver positive sustainable development impacts. Measures should also be planned to mitigate any negative impacts, for example on indigenous peoples, biodiversity, pollution and human rights.

The framework has been substantially updated on the basis of feedback from hundreds of organisations which took part in a public consultation last year, including developers of carbon-crediting programmes, policymakers, buyers and investors.

In particular, indigenous peoples and local communities – which manage and protect around 40% of the Earth’s ecologically intact landscapes – have been given a voice in shaping the CCPs, with three out of 22 seats on the ICVCM’s board reserved for these members.

Annette Nazareth, ICVCM chair, said: “It’s clear we are not acting fast enough to address the climate crisis. We need every tool available working at full speed to secure a liveable future and a high-integrity voluntary carbon market is one of those tools.”

She continued: “These criteria are an important step towards a transparent, regulated-like market where buyers can easily identify and price carbon credits meeting consistently high-integrity standards that will also increase ambition over time.”

The Integrity Council expects to publish its Category-level Assessment Framework, for assessing different categories of carbon credits (such as cookstoves or forestry programmes),towards mid-2023. It is then expected that carbon-crediting programmes will be able to label the first credits as CCP-approved later this year.

The latest digital edition of IPE’s magazine is now available