Carbon credits are one of the primary tools available right now that can mobilise additional private financing – at the speed and scale necessary – to help mitigate climate change and build resilience to its impacts. It enables companies at any stage in their sustainability journeys to contribute to global climate ambitions and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
However, not all carbon credits are created equal. Any carbon project, regardless of geography or design, comes with uncertainty.
CIX exists to drive real impact by increasing access to quality carbon credits. For us, quality means that the projects we choose to make available to our customers deliver positive climate, social and environmental impacts that are measurable, last for a meaningful amount of time, and are not simply displacing emissions elsewhere.
Through our project assessment process, we aim to serve as a trusted partner in the purchase and retirement of carbon credits. Our goal is to bring confidence to those that do not have the resources or expertise to perform their own assessment in-house, while complementing the efforts of those that can.
At the core, we are helping our customers to glean a better understanding of projects and their potential; make informed assessments on whether a credit type or project is acceptable; and procure credits of a certain level of quality.
We undertake a quality evaluation of projects to help reduce complexity for companies, increase transparency and minimise the work our customers need to do before buying and retiring carbon credits.
We offer decision-relevant information, such as rich project write-ups and third-party ratings where available, and we stand ready to speak to our customers should they have further questions.
CIX offers different types of credits that support a range of mitigation activities. Some reduce emissions, while others remove carbon from the atmosphere – all solutions are needed to reach global net zero by mid-century. Short-term interventions and preventions can contribute to much needed greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions before mid-century as technologies that can sequester carbon for thousands of years are being developed.
To ensure that a project is of sufficient quality, projects must be reviewed at two levels:
- Methodology level. This ensures that projects are designed under robust standards and methodologies, which CIX carefully selects to recognise.
- Project level. This ensures that the project is implemented with integrity and impact on the ground. A project can be poorly implemented even if the methodology is robust.
Our experience tells us that projects as often fall short at the project level as at the methodology level.
We have an established process for curating projects on CIX Marketplace and CIX Auctions. This approach builds on the work of internationally-recognised standards setters and multi-stakeholder groups. Our approach is binary. We either choose to list and promote a project or not.
1. Projects must be verified by recognised standards
Our first pre-requisite is that projects must be verified by globally-recognised carbon crediting certification programmes. We currently recognise the American Carbon Registry (ACR), Architecture for REDD+ Transactions’ REDD+ Environmental Excellence Standard (ART TREES), Climate Action Reserve (CAR), Gold Standard, Puro.earth, and Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).
We also seek projects with supplementary certifications like Verra’s Climate, Community & Biodiversity (CCB) Standards and Sustainable Development Verified Impact Standard (SD VISta), or the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC); or which meet the requirements of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
When final guidance on the Core Carbon Principles is published by the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM), we will consider these as a part of our dynamic process for determining quality. However, it is crucial to go beyond certifications on broad types of projects and screen each project individually as these initiatives are context- and location-specific.
2. Projects should have a minimum ‘BBB’ rating or be CIX Evaluated
Next, projects should have achieved a minimum ‘BBB’ rating from independent carbon ratings agencies Sylvera and BeZero to be eligible for listing. This minimum rating guideline is determined following a careful analysis of the ratings agencies’ methodologies.
We recognise that the list of projects evaluated by ratings agencies may not be exhaustive, and have made the deliberate decision to reference the assessments of at least two providers. This helps to ensure projects listed always have a rating where possible. In the event where multiple providers have rated the project, we will reference the lower rating on our platform.
Where a rating does not exist, we will only list the project if it has been ‘CIX Evaluated’. Our in-house project evaluation process may result in the listing of projects that have either not been rated by a third party or which have a lower than ‘BBB’ rating – this occurs where CIX, after careful consideration, believes that the project is of sufficient quality. Moreover, CIX evaluations augment existing ratings with environmental and social safeguards, as well as climate risk assessments.
3. ‘CIX Evaluated’: Projects that have undergone additional assessment by CIX
Selected projects will undergo CIX’s internal quality assessment, which is an additional layer of evaluation conducted by our in-house quality team. We are not a ratings agency and do not purport to be one. That said, we do take our promise to deliver quality projects seriously, and have taken the decision to use our in-house capacity to shortlist projects for promotion. Our approach is focused on the quality of operations implementation over project lifetime horizons.
Projects that meet our in-house quality evaluation threshold are indicated on our platforms as “CIX Evaluated” (Figure 2). Whilst we believe all projects offered on our Marketplace and Auctions venues are of sufficient quality, ‘CIX Evaluated’ projects are selected by us as a service to our customers.
CIX develops specific quality assessment frameworks for each credit type we choose to make available.
These frameworks are established in consultation with our International Advisory Council, as well as calibrated against the robust ratings approaches of independent agencies, external guidance, and lessons learned from the World Bank’s carbon finance funds since the inception of carbon markets. Assessments against these frameworks involve a comprehensive review of publicly available project documentation and other resources provided by suppliers to offer a clear understanding of a project’s attributes, material issues and risks.
Each customer must decide for themselves whether CIX’s evaluation, or that of the ratings agency where available, is sufficient in supporting their own purchase. While these assessments cannot serve as an absolute guarantee, we believe that the combined expertise of CIX and our partners will provide buyers with a sufficient basis for an informed decision.
Learn how we develop our in-house quality assessment frameworks here.
October 2, 2023