Carbon offset projects: VCS

In our previous post we have already talked about carbon offset projects and their importance. We have also talked about one of the biggest currently existing CO2-compensation programs – The Gold Standard. In this post we will introduce another one of such programs – the Verified Carbon Standard Program or The VCS Program

The amount of projects supported by the VCS is just slightly smaller as compared to the relevant amount of the Gold Project programs: 1300 vs. 1400. During the course of its existence, the VCS projects have removed more than 200 million tonnes of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere.

The organization administering the VCS currently has the name of Verra (even though formerly it had the same name as the program itself). Verra is a non-profit organization with headquarters in Washington D.C. 

History of the program

The history of VCS dates back to 2005. That year several global environmentally-oriented organizations gathered a team of global carbon market experts to draft the first requirements. Among these organizations were The Climate Group, International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) and The World Economic Forum. Very soon after the project initiation The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) joined the team. Already after 3 years, by 2008, the newly-developed standard was widely accepted all over the globe.

The goal and how it works

Just like the Gold Standard, the VCS focuses on ensuring that the emission reductions promised by various environmental projects actually took place. The projects that satisfy all the strict conditions of the program gain tradable greenhouse gas certificates or Verified Carbon Units (VCUs). Individuals and companies can buy or sell these Carbon Units on an open market. 

The criteria

According to Verra, the approved projects must satisfy the following requirements:

  • One of the obvious requirements is that all the emission reductions must be real. Sufficient proof that the activities took place must exist.
  • The emission reductions must also be measurable, i.e. they must be quantifiable using recognized measurement tools.
  • Emission removals and reductions must be permanent. This requirement exists due to the fact that some projects may possess a risk of reversibility. Therefore, the risk of reversal must be minimized. Moreover, in most cases a mechanism to replace reductions or removals of greenhouse gases in case a reversal occurs, should be in place.
  • The VCS also checks whether the stated reductions of greenhouse gas emissions are additional to what would have happened as usual scenario. This means that the stated removals or reduction must be additional to what would occur if a certain project did not exist.
  • Each VCU must be unique. There can exist only environmental activity related to a certain certificate. This requirement ensures that the environmental benefits are not double-counted.

Several other requirements and criteria exist to ensure the proper and transparent functioning of all the  projects. You can check them in more detail in VSC official program guide.


The VCS includes a wide range of projects. The goals of the projects vary from renewable energy to forest management and wetlands restoration. The latter deals with emission reductions in mangrove jungles, marshes, deltas and many other wetlands. These requirements are the first existing ones for restoration and conservation activities across wetland ecosystems. You can find more details about these fascinating projects here

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