This November marked 10 years of VCS. We’re thrilled to pass this milestone and conscious of all the work that has gone into making it a reality. Over the past 10 years, we have gone from a small band of climate change professionals who saw a need for accountability in the voluntary carbon market to a fully-fledged team of standards program experts, expanding our work into new arenas where robust standards can have tangible social and environmental benefits.
To celebrate this milestone, here are our top 10 highlights from our 10 years in operation:
1. VCS founded. Of course, we have to begin at the beginning. VCS started in 2005 as a few good ideas scribbled on a piece of paper. The Verified Carbon Standard Association was first established in Switzerland in 2007 and we got our first permanent staff in 2008 (all two of them). The founding of VCS is a milestone in our personal history, but also marks the inception of serious interest in a viable global voluntary carbon market.
2. Our first-of-their-kind methodologies. VCS’s methodologies have increased the variety of projects that can participate in the voluntary carbon market. All of our REDD methodologies were the first of their kind, along with our wetlands and improved forest management methodologies. In recent years, we have been working with partners to develop standardized methodologies that use performance benchmarks to make it easier for projects to measure and track their emissions reductions.
3. Leading AFOLU standard. Our 23 AFOLU methodologies, along with our solutions for addressing leakage and reversals, helped bring REDD to voluntary markets for the first time. We have grown our projects, methodologies and expertise to become the leading standard organization across all Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use projects, with 144 projects currently registered.
4. Generating a significant climate impact by issuing 100 million VCU’s by 2012, and then passing that this year with over 200 million VCU’s issued. Of those VCU’s, nearly 150 million have been retired, the equivalent of taking nearly 40 coal fired power plants offline for a full year.
5. Taking on the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standards and building out the program. VCS took on full management of the CCB Standards from the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance in 2014. Since then we’ve been working to maximize the potential of the program by updating and streamlining it to make it easier to use, especially in conjunction with the VCS Standard. The CCB program marked our first foray into certifying non-carbon benefits, work that we are now building on with the development of SD VISta, the Sustainable Development Verified Impact Standard. Stay tuned for updates in 2018.
6. Thought leadership on nested REDD. Before nested REDD took center stage in recent COP discussions, we were hard at work coming up with a practicable way to do it. Our Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ (JNR) Framework was the world’s first accounting and verification framework for jurisdictional scale nested REDD. Our work on JNR is continuing to evolve, with updates coming in 2018.
7. Recognition by California’s cap-and-trade program. VCS has supported California’s system as an official offset project registry since 2014. This major milestone signalled not only our competence in the space but also a potential new chapter for carbon markets in which jurisdictions worked with voluntary players on compliance programs.
8. Recognition by Colombia in their carbon tax scheme, furthering the reach of the VCS Program and the role of carbon markets. The Colombian government’s willingness to rely on VCS projects and the VCUs they issue as a way to implement government policy and facilitate the efficient distribution of resources was a fundamental recognition of the infrastructure and processes we’ve built over last 10 years.
9. Releasing the ICAT Draft Guidance. Launched in 2016, the Initiative for Climate Action Transparency has been our first foray into the policy space, while still remaining true to our standards and methods DNA. This fall 2017, ICAT released the first draft of their series of guidance. At 11 documents and around 1200 pages in total, the full suite is an enormous achievement.
10. Launching the Landscape Standard. One of our newest standards rounds out our list. The Landscape Standard, currently under development, marks not just where we have been but where we are going. With this new standard for sustainable commodity-producing landscapes we are expanding into landscapes work, initially working in 4 countries and aiming to drive significant change across agricultural, timber and extractives landscapes. As with our other standards, at its core, the Landscape Standard is focused on driving positive social and environmental outcomes and mobilizing private sector investment.
VCS has evolved substantially in our 10 years of operation, and we’ll continue to do so. We are proud to be the undisputed global leader in voluntary credit issuances and a credible, authoritative voice on creative and robust standard development. Over the years, we have managed to adapt to a dynamic and constantly evolving industry, developing new frameworks, changing the way programs are operated and creating new partnerships.
We have been revisiting what our work means in a post-2020 context and looking to the future. We have some big changes and new developments that we are excited to announce in 2018. For now, here are three things we are looking to achieve in the next 10 years:
1. VCS started as a program that allowed actors to go above and beyond what had been committed under the Kyoto Protocol. We want VCS continue to be a space for actors to go above and beyond their Paris commitments and to get us even closer to staying under 2 degrees.
2. We led in the 2000’s voluntary carbon market. Now, we are working to lead the post-2020 landscape for private investment in emission reductions and landscape sustainability. We have our sights on recognition under CORSIA and across other regulatory landscapes worldwide.
3. We know that our success depends on our continued adaptation to changing circumstances. We look forward to launching more new operating standards as we continue to diversify into working on social and environmental sustainability more broadly.
Over the course of 2018, we will continue to reflect on our evolution as an organization. We will be posting a series of anniversary posts that more richly explore some of our top 10 milestones and the work that is coming out of them as we move into the future.
To our partners and stakeholders, thank you for your support, insight and tenacity on this journey. We look forward to the year to come and to the next 10 after that. To help guide us in our work, we want to hear from you. Keep an eye out for a stakeholder survey that will help us kick off 2018. Here’s to the next decade!