The ICVCM Core Carbon Principles Leaves Carbon Buyers and Sellers Still Looking for Guidance
Dr. Spencer Meyer
Dr. Spencer Meyer
31 March, 2023 min read

This post was originally posted on LinkedIn, by Dr. Spencer Meyer, Head of Science at NCX

Yesterday the The Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM) released its long-awaited Core Carbon Principles (CCP), Assessment Framework and Assessment Procedure. Carbon buyers, sellers, and other stakeholders across the climate industry hoped the release would bring clarity to a confused and quality starved market, but many I’ve heard from in the last day were ultimately disappointed with what ICVCM delivered. 

The ICVCM is an independent governance body for the #voluntarycarbonmarket (VCM), created to ensure the market develops toward the goal of combating climate change at scale. The carbon market looks to the ICVCM to provide standards that guide carbon credit quality. As evidenced in recent pieces in The Guardian, Bloomberg, and more, the VCM is reeling from a quality crisis that has eroded trust and contributed to hesitation among credit-purchasing companies. Many hoped, myself included, this latest guidance from ICVCM would provide a clear path forward that would unlock action and investment at scale. 

In order for the CCPs and their critical Assessment Framework to provide actionable guidance, they needed to deliver specific guardrails for the most critical issue facing the industry, including additionality, baselines and how to appropriately measure the durability of climate actions. But the CCPs and Assessment Framework released yesterday stayed high-level and vague on the important details. ICVCM says those key details will be launched in a forthcoming installment planned for Q2 of this year. That can’t come soon enough.

In the meantime, the market is still left without a clear signal where the high-quality carbon projects will come from. Unlike the draft Assessment Framework, which proposed guardrails at both the standard and methodology level, this new one so far does not meaningfully address anything at the methods level. And yet it’s at the methods level where most of the current failings are in the market.

While the ICVCM has not yet provided the detailed guidance the market craves, the CCPs have improved over the draft version in that they are written with more clarity, they provide some level of guidance for standards bodies, and they provide clear guidelines for Validation and Verification Bodies (VVBs). In particular, this new version made strides on governance, equity and the pursuit of sustainable development goals. 

We encourage stakeholders of the voluntary carbon market, buyers and sellers alike, to read the guidance. While it will leave a lot to be desired for now, it can still be an important part of the full picture. I am eager to read the full Assessment Framework when it comes out later this year, because I remain hopeful that part two will provide the details around baselines, additionality and durability that the industry needs. If the ICVCM is going to be relevant and as impactful as we all need it to be, it needs to act quickly and boldly. Thank you to all those who are doing that important work.

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about the author

Dr. Spencer Meyer

Dr. Spencer Meyer

Head of Science
Dr. Spencer Meyer is the Head of Science at NCX. Spencer is responsible for ensuring NCX is deploying and advancing the most credible, innovative science on natural capital solutions. He works externally with stakeholders and thought leaders to link the science and business of natural capital markets. He also oversees internal science alignment across all teams for carbon, biodiversity, and other forms of natural capital. Spencer is an innovator and leader with 20 years of experience working collaboratively with NGO, government, private sector, and academic partners to solve natural resource challenges. He is a co-founder of Sebago Clean Waters, an advisor to conservation NGOs and private foundations, and a frequent speaker on forest management, watershed protection, natural climate solutions, conservation finance, and partnership development. Spencer previously worked at the Highstead Foundation, Harvard Forest, Yale School of the Environment, University of Maine, and The Nature Conservancy. He earned his A.B. from Dartmouth College and his M.S. and Ph.D. in forest management and sustainability science from the University of Maine.