• The voluntary markets for carbon offsets


    Voluntary markets do not require as much documentation and financial investment as do the mandatory (CDM) markets. However, prices are highly variable because the project developers have the freedom to adopt standards or not, to create new methodologies, and to have or not have third party verifications. We would also point out that as of end 2009 we are not aware of any full-scale application in the coffee sector as yet.

    Furthermore, this freedom of negotiation affects the prices of the credits as these are directly related to the quality and credibility of the methodology that was used, and the degree of verification by third part audits or other assurance mechanisms. Critics refer to a lack of regulated methodologies for setting up the credits and the impossibility of tracing back the volume of GHG alleged to have been sequestrated. Lack of regulations could possibly result in double counting of credits, intentionally or unintentionally, and having to trust that already purchased credits will be accounted for in the future. After all, projects can fail whereas the standards or verification systems used could turn out to be inadequate.

    Nevertheless, the voluntary route is more appropriate for small or medium sized initiatives (projects) that may lack the capacity and knowledge to develop fully fledged CDM type coffee carbon credits. Widening the sphere of activities and extending the target areas might also result in more people or communities being able to participate. Additionally, investing in social or producer organization would facilitate smallholder access to the potential benefits offered by the carbon markets.

    Standards leading to verified carbon credits that could potentially be adopted by coffee growers are listed below. For more details and comparisons on how they differ look for the report entitled 'Making Sense of the Voluntary Carbon Market: A Comparison of Carbon Offset Standards' at www.co2offsetresearch.org.

    • The Voluntary Carbon Standard which has a section on Agricultural Land Management (coffee trees, vegetation, soil and waste water).
    • Plan Vivo, whose Scolel Te project in Mexico includes a section dealing with shade trees in coffee plantations.
    • CarbonFix, whose CarbonFix Standard was developed for climate forestation projects.
    • The The Chicago Climate Exchange sets standards (protocols) for a number of offset disciplines, including Forestry Carbon Sequestration.

    The Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance Standards includes three kinds of credits: Approved, Silver and Gold depending on the findings of the audit process. However, if verified carbon credits are to be issued then these must be verified by one of the other voluntary standards.

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