Data and Insights

VCS Quarterly Update

Issue #5 - Q4/2020

We are pleased to share with you the final quarterly Data & Insights brief for 2020 with updated information about project types, issuances, and retirements under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program as well as high-level overview data for 2019 and 2020. 

The past year was a turbulent one everywhere and will forever be viewed through the lens of COVID-19 and the impacts it had on all aspects of life and the economy. And while we saw a drop in VCU issuances early on in the year, the VCS Program ended 2020 with a record-setting 140.5 million VCUs issued, an increase of more than 20 million tonnes compared to 2019. We see this growth as an indicator that the private sector is following through on its climate commitments – in spite of a global pandemic that is overshadowing everything. 

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Main Takeaways

Q4 2020 shattered VCU issuance records.

The final three months of 2020 saw over 50 million VCUs issued — by far the most VCUs ever issued in one quarter.

VCU retirements in 2020 were nearly 20 million higher than in 2019.

Nearly 69 million credits were retired this year alone, 25% more than in 2019 when just over 50 million VCUs were retired, an indicator that VCUs are actively being used to meet climate commitments.  Cumulatively, retirements have surpassed the milestone of 300 million VCUs, the equivalent of almost 5 million tree seedlings grown for 10 years.

After a rocky first half of the year, Q3/4 trends show growth across sectors.

After a drop in early 2020, VCU issuances in both the AFOLU and Non-AFOLU sectors have been increasing, with non-AFOLU issuances rebounding more strongly than AFOLU issuances in Q4.

VCS Data and Insights – Q4/2020
Projects
1,973
total projects
1,676
projects registered
297
projects in the pipeline*
*A pipeline project is a project in the early phases of project development and implementation that is listed on the Verra registry and is currently undergoing or has completed its 30-day public comment period.
Summary Totals to Date
VCU ISSUANCES* (Total to Date)

*One VCU represents one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent that was removed from the atmosphere or not emitted.

Greenhouse gas equivalencies for emission reductions and removals were calculated using the EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator

540,423,886
VCUs
116,755,105
cars taken off the road
for a year
314,510,345 Non-AFOLU* VCUs
225,913,541 AFOLU* VCUs
143,104,160 AFOLU* VCUs with CCB Label**
Hover with your cursor over the bar to see what these emission reductions are equivalent to
*AFOLU – Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use
**VCUs with the CCB label were issued by projects that are validated to the CCB Standards and have verified climate, community and biodiversity benefits for the same verification period in which the VCUs were generated.
AFOLU and Non-AFOLU Issuances Over Time
AFOLU Issuances
Non-AFOLU Issuances
Total Issuances
AFOLU Issuances
Non-AFOLU Issuances
Retirements to Date
VCUs that have been purchased and taken off the market forever; a retired VCU represents a carbon offset
308,543,958
VCUs
66,658,938
cars taken off the road
for a year
200,555,313 Non-AFOLU* VCUs
107,988,645 AFOLU* VCUs
48,252,710 AFOLU* VCUs with CCB Label**
*AFOLU – Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use
**VCUs with the CCB label were issued by projects that are validated to the CCB Standards and have verified climate, community and biodiversity benefits for the same verification period in which the VCUs were generated.
Project-Specific Data
Projects by Region
Region Projects Percentage of Total
Asia 1,160 69.2%
North America 96 5.7%
South and Central America 257 15.3%
Oceania 8 0.5%
Africa 101 6%
Europe 54 3.2%
VCU Issuances by Region
Region VCUs Percentage of Total
Asia 313,952,154 58.1%
North America 29,965,899 5.5%
South and Central America 115,707,728 21.4%
Oceania 1,608,511 0.3%
Africa 67,980,130 12.6%
Europe 11,209,464 2.1%
AFOLU* Projects
by Region
Region Projects Percentage of Total
Asia 44 22.2%
North America 10 5.1%
South and Central America 88 44.4%
Oceania 6 3%
Africa 50 25.3%
Europe 0 0%
AFOLU* VCU Issuances
by Region
Region VCUs Percentage of Total
Asia 60,593,782 26.8%
North America 4,093,256 1.8%
South and Central America 96,734,631 42.8%
Oceania 1,527,135 0.7%
Africa 62,964,737 27.9%
Europe 0 0%
*AFOLU – Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use
AFOLU* Projects by Project Type
Type Projects Percentage of Total
WRC 1 0.5%
REDD 78 39.4%
ALM 3 1.5%
IFM 21 10.6%
ARR 95 48%
VCU Issuances by AFOLU* Project Type
Type VCUs Percentage of Total
WRC 19,080,138 8.4%
REDD 185,065,945 81.9%
ALM 325,825 0.1%
IFM 6,765,389 3%
ARR 14,676,244 6.5%
*AFOLU – Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use

ALM – Agricultural Land Management
ARR – Afforestation, Reforestation and Revegation
IFM – Improved Forest Management
REDD – Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation
WRC – Wetland Restoration and Conservation

Concluding Thoughts

The overall market outlook continues to be strong. The many corporate commitments on net-zero or carbon-neutral targets allowed an otherwise tumultuous year to end on a strong note. The outcome of the US election and the prospect of the US rejoining the Paris Agreement under the Biden Administration is also likely to fuel further confidence in the demand for carbon offsets.