Corporate carbon market growing exponentially despite credibility concerns

Image: Verra

Those are the latest figures from Trove Research this week.

The carbon markets data platform revealed that, of the $36bn invested during the decade, more than half of this finance ($18bn) was provided after the start of 2020.

Indeed, 160% more carbon credit projects were registered between 2020 and 2022 than in the eight years prior. More than 1,500 projects have been registered since the start of the decade.

More than 80% of the $36bn has gone towards nature-related projects, where developers tout carbon benefits from conserving, managing, restoring or creating habitats. Forests have proven to be the most popular choice, with less funding going to projects such as wetlands and peatlands.

The rest of the financing has supported projects relating to clean cooking fuels, renewable energy and man-made carbon removal technologies.

Trove Research anticipates that the market will continue to grow steadily or even exponentially. It has concluded that there are already 1,500 new carbon credit projects in development and likely to be registered in the near-term.

Continued controversy

The figures suggest that corporate backing for carbon credit projects has not faltered despite recent scandals.

The fact that the EU will soon prevent products from being labelled ‘carbon-neutral’ or ‘carbon-negative’ if the claims rely on offsetting is also yet to dent the global market.

An investigation led by the Guardian earlier this year concluded that 90% of Verra’s rainforest credits are “worthless”. Verra staunchly contested the investigators’ methods but nonetheless agreed to reform and replace its rainforest credit scheme by mid-2025.

Verra has issued more than one billion carbon credits since it launched in 2009. The vast majority of these credits have concerned emissions reductions or removals from nature-based projects.

This week, a new study from UC Berkeley and Carbon Market Warch claimed that there is a “huge discrepancy” between the quality of carbon preventions and removals offered by different forest projects. The study concluded that only one in every 13 credits represents a net benefit in terms of climate impact and benefits for local communities.

Regarding the impact of carbon credit projects on local people, concerns abound around land grabbing and questions remain about why the places where the carbon benefits originate cannot keep these benefits for their own accounting.

This debate raged strongly this week as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) struck a carbon credit deal with Liberia, under which the latter would give the former blanket rights to more than 10% of its territory.

Critics of the deal have called it a smokescreen for the UAE’s continued fossil fuel exploration and an example of “the recolonization of Africa”.

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