How Calyx Ratings are aligned with the ICVCM CCPs

Wednesday, 04 Oct 2023

In this blog we explain how Calyx Global’s ratings are aligned with the ICVCM’s Core Carbon Principles and its Assessment Framework that will be used to “tag” credits.

We are continuing a blog series on the Integrity Council for Voluntary Carbon Markets (ICVCM). Our first blog was Reflections on the ICVCM’s Latest ‘Reveal’ and what the Assessment Framework means for creating quality in the voluntary market. We are continuing with this series, Part II: How Calyx Ratings are Aligned with the ICVCM CCPs.

The ICVCM is defining what integrity means

In this nascent market, there is a lot of confusion about what high-quality means. The ICVCM is helping to create norms by defining “integrity” – this can be enormously helpful for the market. At Calyx Global, we welcome the establishment of Core Carbon Principles (CCPs) as a way for market actors to align on the concept of integrity.

We also hope that the CCPs and the ICVCM’s Assessment Framework can, over time, help ratings agencies to align as well – because we often hear that it is confusing when carbon credit ratings agencies have different ratings for the same project’s credits.

Calyx Ratings are completely aligned with the ICVCM’s 10 CCPs

The 10 Core Carbon Principles are divided into three categories:

  1. Governance

  2. Emissions Impact

  3. Sustainable Development.

1. Governance: The first four CCPs are applied to carbon crediting programs (often called standards or registries) and how they operate. They require four elements: Effective governance, Tracking, Transparency and Robust independent third-party validation and verification.

At Calyx Global, before we begin to rate carbon credits, we assess the governance – including all four CCPs (see table below) – of the carbon crediting program that issues the credits. Our screening of carbon crediting programs is well aligned with the ICVCM’s approach; although we may categorize the elements slightly differently and go beyond several that are required by the ICVCM. To date, we generally do not rate credits from programs that do not sufficiently meet these criteria.

ICVCM core carbon principles 
for Governance
Calyx Global’s assessment of carbon crediting programs

CCP #1 - Effective governance


(includes our “stakeholder participation”)

CCP #2 - Tracking

Registry operations

CCP #3 - Transparency


(includes our “rules and procedures”)

CCP #4 - Robust independent third party validation and verification

Validation and verification

2. Emissions impact: The next four CCPs speak to the greenhouse gas integrity of carbon credits. They include: Additionality, Permanence, Robust Quantification (of emission reductions and removals) and No Double Counting.

These criteria match exactly the four criteria that Calyx Global rates for each carbon credit. On our ratings platform, for our “GHG integrity” rating, we provide separate assessments of these four criteria for each carbon project. We may use slightly different names – because our ratings are ‘risk based’ – but the definitions we use for each concept are precisely aligned with the criteria defined by the ICVCM. 

ICVCM core carbon principles 
for Emissions Impact
Calyx Global’s risk factors analyzed 
for rating GHG integrity

CCP #5 - Additionality


CCP #6 - Permanence


CCP #7 - Robust quantification


CCP #8 - No double counting

Overlapping claims

For example, our additionality assessment is focused on assessing the evidence that the incentive created by carbon credit revenues was decisive for the activity to occur. It does not mix the concept up with, for example, baseline setting.  

Robust quantification under the ICVCM is focused on how well, based on conservative approaches, the project has estimated emission reductions or removals. There are two parts of this criterion;

  1. First is whether the project has robustly estimated emission reductions (or removals). The Assessment Framework further elaborates on this element, including how well the project set its baseline, estimated emissions (or removals) and accounted for leakage. These are exactly the same elements that go into the Calyx Global risk assessment for “over-crediting”.  

  1. The second important issue is that the estimation should be “based on conservative approaches”. This means that any material uncertainty should be estimated and the estimation should use the most conservative value. Our ratings apply this concept. 

3. Sustainable Development: 
The final two criteria are related to sustainable development and safeguards, and a contribution to net zero. We cover both of these.

Our Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) impact ratings go well beyond the current ICVCM requirements, which are only that carbon crediting programs disclose the SDG criteria used and if there is a third-party linked certification scheme. These relatively “light” requirements were adopted in recognition that this area is not well developed in the voluntary carbon market. The Calyx Global framework to assess SDG contributions is considerably more robust. You can read more about it here.

The CCP on sustainable development also mentions safeguards, but similarly has very little guidance on this issue, for the reasons stated above (i.e. the relative underdevelopment of this area by carbon crediting programs). We believe safeguards are critical to assessing the quality of carbon credits and for the past year have been working on an approach to “rate” risks of negative environmental and social impacts by carbon projects. Stay tuned for more on this! 

The final CCP states that mitigation activities generating carbon credits “shall avoid locking in levels of GHG emissions, technologies or carbon-intensive practices that are incompatible with the objective of achieving net zero GHG emissions by mid-century”. The Calyx Global GHG integrity framework includes a section that assesses if a project is “Inconsistent with a transition to net zero”. In short, Calyx Global is committed to keeping a living “negative” list of project types that we will label as “not recommended” for purchase.

ICVCM core carbon principles 
for Sustainable Development
Calyx Global Ratings

CCP #9 - Sustainable development benefits and safeguards

SDG ratings covering all 17 SDGs 

Under Development: Safeguards assessment

CCP #10 - Contribution toward net zero transition

GHG ratings use a “negative list” for mitigation activities that are not consistent with a transition to net zero

Conclusion: Calyx Ratings should be aligned with the outcomes of the ICVCM

It is not too surprising that our ratings are well aligned with the ICVCM, since the majority of Calyx Global panel members have also been deeply involved in creating the CCPs and the ICVCM’s Assessment Framework. The key authors of the Calyx Global Framework include several ICVCM Expert Panel members, or Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), contracted by the ICVCM Secretariat. One of our co-founders also is on the ICVCM’s Expert Panel.

Carbon buyers, traders and others engaging in the voluntary market are all watching the ICVCM closely – expecting the tagging of credits to be a litmus test of quality. We agree that it is a useful first step. We also expect that our ratings will be well aligned with the decisions of the ICVCM – because our ratings frameworks, definitions and conceptual approaches are well aligned with the CCPs and the ICVCM Assessment Framework.

However, while we expect alignment, there won’t be a perfect match. Stay tuned for the next edition of our blog series, Part III: Carbon Credit Ratings and the ICVCM where we discuss this issue, and why we believe Ratings and the ICVCM are complementary. Or sign up for our Newsletter to be notified when the blog is posted.

About the author

Calyx Global

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