Discover the Importance of carbon standards. Make a Positive Impact with COTAP


COTAP requires that all of its projects be approved by one or more of the well-established, third-party carbon standards listed below. Because part of COTAP’s purpose is to be an early-stage funding source, we also consider projects which are in pursuit of, but not yet approved by, such standards. Expert panel approval and ongoing third-party monitoring maximize our projects’ chances of long-term success. Projects’ designs must sufficiently cover a very wide range of important factors such as the consultation of local communities and governments, proper selection of eligible planting areas and tree species, land tenure, carbon sequestration estimates, additionality, permanence, leakage, risk buffer size, and establishment of third-party verifiers and verification schedules. Each project’s Project Design Document (or “PDD”) can be downloaded from its respective detail page on COTAP.

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The Plan Vivo Foundation is a charity based in Edinburgh, Scotland which oversees the Plan Vivo Standard. With roots stretching back to a research project in Chiapas, Mexico in 1994, Plan Vivo is the longest-standing and most established forestry carbon accounting standard in the world.  Plan Vivo is also the only forestry carbon accounting standard which always requires projects to have detailed plans for direct payments to smallholders and community groups. In June 2011, Plan Vivo issued its one millionth Plan Vivo certificate, representing over 1 million tonnes of certified carbon dioxide sequestration.

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Now part of the Gold Standard, CarbonFix is a German non-profit founded in 1999 to follow the UN climate process and promote the potential of climate forestation projects.  By 2007, CarbonFix’s organizers deemed that the UN Clean Development Mechanism’s forestry methodologies and approval processes had made gaining approval impractically difficult, time-consuming, and expensive for the majority of forestry carbon project developers. They then organised a group of experts to develop the first version of the CarbonFix Standard, which was presented at the world climate conference in Bali in December 2007.

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The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), formerly known as the Voluntary Carbon Standard, is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit dating back to 2007 and launched by The Climate Group, the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to bring standardization to the voluntary offset market. The current version of the standard is VCS Version 3, released in March of 2011. VCS projects can use methodologies approved under the CDM and The Climate Action Reserve Protocols, as well as VCS methodologies approved through the VCS methodology approval process. The VCS infrastructure includes a Project Database that provides public access to information on validated projects and Verified Carbon Units (VCUs) and three approved VCS registries: Markit, Caisse des Dépôts and NYSE Blue.

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Established in 2005, The Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) Standard was founded by member organizations CARE International, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, The Rainforest Alliance, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. The CCBA Standard is supplemental to the above carbon accounting standards which enable verification and registration of quantified greenhouse gas (CO2) removals, and it offers a structured way to signify a projects’ commitment to benefits beyond carbon dioxide removal/sequestration. All CCBA-certified projects are not created equal, though, because CCBA doesn’t require projects be approved under all elements of its standard. For example, some projects’ CCBA certification is misleading because they have skipped the Community category altogether, achieved Gold-level validation in the Biodiversity category, and then claimed to be a “CCBA Gold” project. While that’s technically allowed and correct, it’s very different from what’s known as a CCBA “Triple Gold” project, which has also achieved Gold status, but in all categories including Community – a very important difference.

COTAP & Industry Associations

International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance (ICROA). COTAP is not currently a member of the ICROA. The ICROA is a consortium of for-profit carbon offset retailers, it treats carbon credits primarily as a single-dimension commodity. It lacks sufficient commitment to generating community benefits, and it excludes both Plan Vivo and CCBA from its list of supported standards.

International Emissions Trading Association(IETA). The IETA is intended for participants in compliance-based carbon trading at the national, regional, or international level. As such, this association is not relevant to COTAP, which is a participant in the voluntary carbon market.

Additional Notes

COTAP does not support carbon standards which lack sufficient coverage of least-developed countries and/or forestry and therefore don’t fit our mission. Examples include the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) and the American Carbon Registry. For an overview of carbon standards, please see Section 6.1 of Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2011 at right.