Scoping the space of carbon removal standards and certification

New research on the verification of carbon removal published in the international journal Climate Policy reveals a complex, rapidly expanding certification ecosystem with many actors, standards, and certification products. Some carbon removal technologies like reforestation have many standards, others like enhanced weathering have none. The compliance carbon removal market has a narrow scope, the voluntary market casts a wider net.

The research also found the standards are inequivalent in terms of their treatment of the avoided, reduced and removed emissions as some equate the three and others do not. This has implications for transparency, the development of methods to account for the emissions, and claims that can be made by purchasers. Similar observations regrading inequality were made by other research teams, such as CarbonPlan on the varying rigor, safeguards, and durability of standards of soil carbon enhancement

The research was led by Dr. Arcusa from the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University in collaboration with Dr. Sprenkle-Hyppolite at Conservation International and is the first output from their project on advancing the verification of carbon removal. The project is also exploring topics such as durability and additionality and has held consultations with international standard developing organizations under the hospice of the Global Carbon Removal Partnership Research from ASU LightWorks, a university initiative focused on new energy systems and decarbonization, found through a series of interviews with corporate leaders that many large corporations have no trust in current carbon trading schemes. This lack of trust is primarily due to the volatility of the market, no existing standards and limited transparency.

The project will ultimately develop a framework for the certification of carbon removal in a manner that is technology agnostic, measurable, verifiable, and safe for today and the future. With the need for gigatons of carbon removal to meet net-zero goals and the anticipation that carbon removal must be tradeable, a common framework will ensure that all carbon removal meets a minimum level of quality. This will shift the burden of responsibility from the buyer to the producer, who ultimately has control over quality.

The research can also be viewed interactively on this platform