Verra has released updates to the VCS Program, which include the following changes:

  • Required reporting on contributions to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
  • The introduction of requirements for dynamic performance benchmarks; and
  • New and revised requirements for agriculture, forestry, and other land use (AFOLU) projects.

Required Reporting on Contributions to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

To demonstrate the commitment of VCS projects to social and environmental sustainability, Verra now requires all VCS projects to report their quantified contributions to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Project proponents must demonstrate that a project contributes to at least three SDGs by the end of the project’s first monitoring period.

This requirement does not apply to projects that complete a verification to the Climate, Community & Biodiversity (CCB) Standards or the Sustainable Development Verified Impact Standard (SD VISta) at the same time as a VCS Program verification.

The Introduction of Requirements for Dynamic Performance Benchmarks

Under the existing VCS Methodology Requirements, performance benchmarks for crediting baselines or additionality demonstration are based on the current average performance of GHG emission and removal activities within a specific sector or activity type.

The VCS Program also introduces new requirements to allow for dynamic performance benchmarks that take into consideration real-time performance changes in a given sector or activity type. Under this approach, data from control plots or sources that represent the baseline scenario is matched with monitored plots or data from the project to create a performance benchmark that will be updated at least every five years.

New and Revised Requirements for AFOLU Projects

The revisions include changes that update or expand the requirements for AFOLU projects. They include:

  • A pipeline listing deadline within three years of a project start date;
  • The extension of the validation deadline to eight years for small-scale AFOLU projects, as well as all Afforestation, Reforestation, and Revegetation projects, Wetland Restoration and Conservation (WRC) projects, and Improved Forest Management (except Logged to Protected Forest) projects;
  • Updated project area requirements allowing WRC projects in coastal areas to add land to the project area after the first verification to accommodate landward expansion due to sea-level rise;
  • A new requirement for calculating soil organic carbon stock that ensures that reported soil organic carbon gains result from a carbon content increase and are not an artifact of soil compaction;
  • Requiring a baseline reassessment period of ten years for Agricultural Land Management projects;
  • Setting the baseline reassessment period at six years for Avoiding Unplanned Deforestation and/or Degradation projects, Avoiding Planned Deforestation and/or Degradation projects (where the agent is unknown), Avoiding Unplanned Conversion projects, and Avoiding Unplanned Wetland Degradation projects.

Affected Documents and Effective Dates

These updates are reflected in the following VCS Program documents (which are all accessible on the VCS Program Rules & Requirements webpage):

  • VCS Program Guide v4.1;
  • Verified Carbon Standard v4.2;
  • VCS Program Definitions v4.1;
  • VCS Registration and Issuance Process v4.1;
  • VCS Methodology Requirements v4.1;
  • VCS Project Description Template v4.1;
  • VCS Monitoring Report Template v4.1;
  • VCS Validation Report Template v4.1;
  • VCS Verification Report Template v4.1; and
  • VCS Methodology Template v4.1.

Effective dates for each update are included in the document histories of the relevant VCS Program document. Effective dates can also be found here.

If you have questions about any of these updates, please contact Verra will host a webinar on the above updates in the coming weeks which we will announce in due course.

Appreciation for Stakeholder Inputs

These VCS Program updates were released following two public consultations starting in August and November of 2021 respectively. Verra received feedback from over 27 stakeholders, including project developers, NGOs, governments, industry associations, corporates, consulting firms, and other market participants. Summaries of comments from both the November consultation as well as the August consultation are available on the Verra website. Thank you to everybody who submitted feedback!