I’ll confess a bias – I love John Oliver, and satire is probably my favourite comedy genre. Oliver is relentless in skewering leaders in virtually every aspect of public life, and often they deserve to be skewered! Maybe that’s why the 21 August item on offsets stung so sharply, because we are usually on the same page.
Now that the dust is settling, I’m reflecting on how the Oliver show took me back 25 years or so. That’s when I first heard about emissions trading. As a lawyer, I had to ask, would it really work? Or would companies abuse the flexibilities? Would emissions really go down? But 25 years later, we have the proof. As one friend wrote me recently, “the fact that emissions in Europe are now 1 billion tonnes a year lower than they were at the launch in 2005 demonstrates the power of the mechanism to stimulate real emission reductions.”
When the TV audience gets over the cheap thrill of the Oliver attack, they will turn to another fun topic, but we will still face the urgency of the climate crisis. We have important work to do. Both governments and a growing share of business worldwide accept that we must do our utmost to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius. And this must include both mandatory and voluntary action.
This is at the core of what IETA stands for. Through our work with companies across different sectors as well as governments, NGOs, carbon project developers, intermediaries and exchanges, we foster market-based solutions to raise climate ambition and accelerate decarbonisation.
Carbon markets are a critical tool, but by no means the only one, in the global emission reduction efforts. But few other tools provide the same environmental certainty as the cap-and-trade model.
A few more details...
Oliver presented a misleading view of carbon markets and carbon offsetting. The IETA community has already expressed its deep concerns over the way the topic was handled; there have been a number of strong and thoughtful responses to it, including from ACR and VERRA. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but a few points must be made:
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As an offset project registry, the Climate Action Reserve sets standards for transparency, quality and rigor that create a foundation for the carbon market. These standards are apparent in all of the Reserve’s work – from the development of its offset protocols to the issuance of offset credits. Without assurances for those high standards, the market would fail on multiple levels. Real action on climate change would not happen, progress towards global climate goals would be lacking and prices for credits would plummet.
In supporting the carbon market, the Reserve registers offset projects that have been verified to adhere to its offset protocols and program manual, and it issues offset credits, known as Climate Reserve Tonnes (CRTs), to those projects. Project documentation and credit details, including their unique serial numbers, are all publicly available on the Reserve’s registry.
Because of the way the Reserve’s offset protocols are developed, its staff members are able to provide detailed, knowledgeable support while projects are being developed. They also are able to efficiently register projects and issue credits without sacrificing any of the organization’s standards.
Another key role the Reserve plays in the carbon market is advocating for these high standards. For over 20 years, the organization has been a leader in pushing for high standards for permanence, additionality and transparency in the carbon market, and it will continue to fill this role, especially in this critical time of global expansion for the carbon market.
IETA has always been a critical force in the development of global carbon markets and bringing together stakeholders to collaborate. The carbon market is an integral tool for the global community to reach climate change goals, and the Reserve recognizes that working together with other market stakeholders through IETA is critical for ensuring we utilize this tool to its highest potential.
Washington state and California share an interest in eventually linking their carbon markets, according to this paper by IETA and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The paper argues that linking is best achieved after alignment of key programme designs, such as noncompliance penalties, price ceiling mechanisms, and cap setting processes.