SILVER SPRING, Md., July 24 -- In a guide purporting to rate and rank carbon offset providers in Canada and abroad, the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) and Pembina Institute have rejected internationally accepted carbon reduction standards in favor of subjective criteria that have no bearing on whether or not carbon dioxide is reduced from the atmosphere. The guide rejects forest-based carbon reductions even when certified to the strict standards adopted by the United Nations, International Organization for Standardization (ISO), California's Climate Action Reserve (CAR) and Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also allows forest-based carbon reductions, as does the Kyoto Protocol.
"Any guide that ranks organizations based on subjective, non-CO2 related criteria on the same level or higher as international, government-backed standards is not a credible source for consumers," said Eric Carlson, president of Carbonfund.org. "For example, the guide allows for important criteria such as additionality to be self-defined and administered - a process that must be performed by third-parties to accepted standards."
"It is inconceivable the David Suzuki Foundation, or any reputable environmental organization, would support national or international carbon reduction laws based on the criteria used in this guide," said Carlson. "Internationally accepted standards along with third-party verification and auditing are the only guarantees of carbon reductions - the goal of climate legislation - and are thus hallmarks of quality."
-- Rejects or Does Not Require Internationally Accepted Standards
- The guide sets no requirement, such as in the criteria used, that projects be validated or verified to any internationally accepted standard, such as the UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Gold Standard, ISO, VCS or CAR, enabling any organization to create their own standard.
-- Rejects Forest-Based Carbon Offsets -
Claiming an issue with the permanence of forest-based carbon reductions, the only project type that actually reduces carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the DSF rejects the protocols, standards and methodologies adopted and accepted by the UN, American Carbon Registry (ACR), Climate Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards, ISO, CAR and VCS, all of which address and account for project permanence.
However, even the David Suzuki Foundation's own science program director, Dr. Faisal Moola, appears to disagree with the guide's view on forest-based reductions and permanence, as this excerpt from the March 16, 2009 issue of Canadian Business
"I'm not opposed to forest-derived offsets," Suzuki scientific director Faisal Moola told Canadian Business. "Trees are the only practical way we have to remove CO2 from the atmosphere." Moola agreed that technology-based offsets like those his foundation favors suffer "common limitations" with biological carbon capture, including leakage and imprecision about how much carbon reduction is truly "additional" to a business-as-usual case. Forest-carbon vendors, he noted, have found ways around the problem of "reversal" by setting aside some of the carbon a forest captures as an unsold buffer against future losses.
-- Bungles Concept of Additionality
- Additionality attempts to define whether the carbon reduction would have occurred in the absence of the carbon reduction project. It can only credibly be applied by an independent third-party and every standard requires this. A major flaw in the guide is that it allows for the self-definition and application of this important criterion, placing a higher value on self-application of additionality over many offsets certified to international standards. No internationally accepted standard allows for the self-application of additionality.
-- Implies Non-Fungibility of Carbon Credits within the Same Standard
- Standards such as California's Climate Action Reserve issue Climate Reserve Tonnes (CRTs) for each tonne of carbon reduction they approve to their standards. Once issued, the tonne is fungible with any other CRT, meaning the standards body believes they are of equal quality. The acceptance of standards and their fungibility is an essential component of any international carbon reduction program, such as cap-and-trade. The guide implies the UN, VCS, CAR, ACR and others certify tonnes of unequal quality, and thus are not fungible.
"The big story is that the David Suzuki Foundation appears to believe that the leading international standards certify low and differing quality carbon reductions. If this is their belief, why don't they say so and why isn't their guide focused on ranking carbon standards organizations, the bodies behind carbon credits and the claims," asked Carlson.
-- Uses Subjective and Non-Carbon Related Criteria
- The guide promotes subjective and non-carbon related criteria, such as education by the provider or project developer, which accounts for 10% of the score, when trying to determine the quality of the carbon reduced, despite having no impact on whether a carbon reduction actually occurred.
"Climate change is a deadly serious issue affecting our planet and we all need to work together to measurably and certifiably reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Carlson. "This guide is a disservice to Canadian consumers and the dedicated experts developing and implementing robust international standards to ensure projects actually reduce CO2 from the atmosphere. The guide does not meet the normally high standards of the David Suzuki Foundation."
The internationally accepted standards mentioned in this release have been developed by hundreds of climate experts, government officials and nonprofit leaders through numerous stakeholder groups and are widely accepted around the world. Conversely, there is not a single piece of national or international legislation that allows for the self-verification of additionality, use of a self-defined standard or that bases carbon quality on how well a company educates the public.
Carbonfund.org is a leading international nonprofit climate solutions organization based in the United States. Carbonfund.org works with over 450,000 individuals and 1,200 businesses around the world to calculate, reduce and offset their climate impact. Carbonfund.org is a Founding Member of the American Carbon Registry. www.carbonfund.org