Voluntary carbon market standards may have overcorrected, critics say

By Allison Prang | 02/27/2024 06:28 AM EST

Market observers say frameworks developed to boost integrity may have set standards too tough to meet.

A forest in New England.

A pair of frameworks created by two organizations trying to restore confidence in voluntary carbon markets is raising questions over whether they've become too strict. Charles Krupa/AP

A pair of groups that have developed standards aimed at restoring confidence in the voluntary carbon market are facing pushback over concerns that their efforts to boost integrity may create significant barriers for market participants.

Both the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative and the Integrity Council for Voluntary Carbon Markets have released standards for carbon credit developers to make sure the projects are of high integrity and to ensure credits are used in legitimate ways. But some firms and observers are questioning whether the frameworks are too tough for prospective market participants to meet.

“All of these initiatives, I feel like, have got to get a bit more balance,” said Rebecca Fay, chief marketing officer at Climate Impact Partners, a firm that works with governments and companies on using the voluntary carbon market and also develops carbon credits. “Is it [a] high bar, small tent, or lower bar to get a big tent. We would go for the latter.”


These organizations’ efforts to bolster the voluntary carbon market’s integrity follow news and research reports that dampened enthusiasm by raising questions about whether projects were achieving the full benefits they promised. Whether the frameworks end up restoring confidence and attracting more buyers will be critical to watch because of the potential for a thriving voluntary carbon market to play a key role in fighting global warming.