How carbon credit standards address safeguards

Monday, 06 May 2024

Previously, we dissected the landscape of carbon-crediting programs, highlighting the crucial need for robust environmental and social safeguards. Those who missed our earlier discussion can catch up here.  

In this entry, we explore the scope of safeguards within leading carbon standards: Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Standards (CCB), Gold Standard for the Global Goals (GS4GG), Sustainable Development Verified Impact Standard (SD VISta), and Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). Through a comparative analysis, we evaluate their coverage in relation to the safeguard areas analyzed by Calyx Global. 

Calyx Global’s Environmental and Social Risk (ESR) framework evaluates 10 safeguard areas and 55 sub-areas. These were meticulously drawn from an extensive mapping of international and project-level standards, aiming for the broadest spectrum of human rights as well as international environmental principles coverage. 

The results of our analysis are summarized in the table below, which categorizes the coverage of each standard. A green check describes full coverage according to Calyx Global. "Most" describes standards that cover the majority (over 60%) of Calyx Global's sub-areas. "Some" denotes less than 60% coverage of Calyx Global's sub-areas, and an "X" describes no coverage:

Some interesting findings from our research include:  

  1. Land Rights and Resettlements: Across the board, all programs touch on land rights and involuntary resettlements. Most dive into topics like land tenure rights and economic displacement. However, there is a noticeable gap when it comes to forced evictions, suggesting an area that needs more attention.
  2. Cultural Heritage: Coverage of cultural heritage is weak. While some programs acknowledge this issue, the focus tends to lean toward tangible aspects, leaving intangible cultural heritage, such as oral traditions, local knowledge or traditional skills,  largely unaddressed.
  3. Transparency, Participation and Benefit Sharing: Despite the overall coverage provided by programs, there is a concerning lack of emphasis on benefit sharing. This aspect holds particular importance within the carbon market, and it is crucial for benefit sharing to be conducted in a fair, transparent and accountable manner.

With regard to environmental and social safeguards, comprehensiveness is essential for mitigating negative impacts. The full spectrum of potential risks should be accounted for, resulting in the protection of stakeholders and ecosystems. 

Our comprehensive ESR framework plays a pivotal role in this effort. By offering a nuanced understanding of projects' environmental and social risks, we help bridge information gaps and provide a solid foundation for companies to make informed investment decisions.

Documents analyzed:

Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Standards (CCB) Version 3.1 21 June 2017

Gold Standard for the Global Goals (GS4GG)

Safeguarding principles & requirements Version  2.1  June 2023

Gender equality requirements & guidelines  Version  2.0 May 2023

Stakeholder consultation and engagement requirements V2.1 June 2022

Sustainable Development Verified Impact Standard (SD VISta) V1.0 January 2019

Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) V4.7 April 2024

About the author

Calyx Global

This article includes insights and input from multiple experts in Calyx Global.