Carbon Project Development
The following are the general steps for carbon project development. This process is similar whether the project is being designed and implemented against a compliance carbon standard or a voluntary carbon standard. This process is also relatively the same whether you are developing a forest carbon project or another eligible project such as a renewable energy project.
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Due Diligence and Assessment of Project Potential
Similar to any other type of project, it is very important to undertake an initial assessment of the project potential and conduct sufficient due diligence.
Selection of Certification Standard and Methodology
Compliance and voluntary carbon projects should be designed and audited against third-party certification standards. The most frequently used carbon certification standards are:
- American Carbon Registry (ACR);
- Climate Action Reserve (CAR);
- Clean Development Mechanism (CDM);
- Gold Standard; and
- Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).
A methodology, also known as a protocol, is essentially the blueprint for how various parameters of a project are calculated and/or determined. Here are some of the approved methodologies and protocols under CAR, CDM and the VCS:
Selection of Independent Auditor
The next step is the chose an independent auditor, also known as validation / verification body (VVB). The auditors are subject matter experts. For example, forest carbon projects are often audited by professional foresters, agriculturalists, or community development experts.
Auditors are often accredited under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which is the US representative of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Auditors then must be accepted by the carbon certification standard.
Implementation of Project Activities
After a project has passed due diligence, chosen a certification standard and a methodology or protocol, and lined up an independent auditor, it is then time to start implementing the on-the-ground activities.
Write Initial Project Documents
While the project activities are being implemented, it is useful to start writing the initial set of project documents. These project documents are comprehensive and require an elaboration on various aspects of the project.
Register Project; Undertake Validation Audit
The Project, upon completion of the draft project documents and after a sufficient amount of project activities are implemented on the ground, will register with an approved registry.
The validation audit involves the auditor reading through the initial project documents, checking all calculations, interviewing the Project Proponents and other relevant stakeholders, and visiting the project site.
Upon successful completion of the validation audit, the auditor will issue a validation report and validation statement. These documents essentially confirm that, in the auditor’s professional opinion, the project has been designed and thus far implemented in accordance with the carbon certification standard.
Conduct Periodic Monitoring, Reporting and Verification with Issuance of Carbon Offset Credits
The project, after achieving validation, would continue to implement the on-the-ground project activities and periodically conduct monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV).
Monitoring involves the monitoring or measurement of certain metrics associated with the project. Reporting involves the preparation of another set of project documents. Verification involves another audit, known as the verification audit. Depending on standard, this audit can be performed by the same auditor or a different auditor and involves a similar process of the auditor reading through the new project documents, checking all new calculations derived from the monitoring, (re)interviewing the Project Proponents and other relevant stakeholders, and (re)visiting the project site.
Upon successful completion of the verification audit, the auditor will issue a verification report and verification statement. These documents confirm that, in the auditor’s professional opinion, the project has mitigated or sequestered a specific quantity of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e), in addition to any community and biodiversity benefits.
Sales should not be left to the very end, but a common structure in the voluntary carbon market is for buyers to only purchase offsets after the Project Proponents have successfully completed the verification audit and are ready to transfer the issued VERs.
To learn more about the carbon markets and our projects, please visit the Grow Tomorrow projects page.