17th February 2021
By: Tasneem Bulbulia, Creamer Media Reporter
Food & Trees for Africa executive director Chris Wild explained that the new carbon standard idea came about through learnings from one of the organisation’s flagship programmes, its Trees for Homes Programme. During tree planting in South African townships, while 200 000 trees were successfully planted, zero credit carbons were actually issued, owing to difficulties with the process. This was owing to challenges including the cost of audit, cost of methodology changes, and the level of sophistication in the carbon arena.
The organisation realised that a paradigm shift was needed, with guiding principles of accessibility, affordability and flexibility. Moreover, it needed practical elements of appropriate structures, a sound business or funding model and a partner/s who shared its vision. The company found a partner that shared its ethos in Promethium, noted Wild, with requirements for the new standard set to include technologies, an open source framework, and component methodologies. Moreover, it was discerned that a separate vehicle was required to undertake this work, and therefore, it was being done through a non-profit trust.
Wild explained that the new standard would provide a platform that integrates the standard methodologies, with an easy registration and ease of access. Moreover, it would allow people and companies to easily and affordably register carbon projects, and to obtain high integrity credits for good carbon work they were undertaking, he noted. Therefore, he said that with many people and companies doing good work in this space, the new standard would allow them to be rewarded for doing good carbon work and to focus more on this rather that administration.
Promethium founder Robbie Louw explained that the country needs a new carbon standard, as the South African carbon tax offset market will last for at least another decade. Moreover, he mentioned a high overhead cost burden on existing standards. He also noted that the Clean Development Mechanism came to the end of its life in 2020, and “is on its last legs to the end of this year”. He also posited that the Verified Carbon Standard had lost developing markets, noting an example of this as its blanket exclusion of renewable energy projects. Louw explained that the principles underlying the new standard were credibility and cost. In terms of the former, this entails environmental, social and economic integrity. In terms of the latter, it must be cost effective, allow the inclusion of smaller projects that are currently excluded owing to the high cost of other standards, and must enable systems to ensure economic integrity. He noted that the new standard was aiming to operate at a high level of credibility, but with significantly lower costs.
Further to cost and credibility, other key principles of the standard are cost effectiveness, balanced auditing requirements, linkages and best practice. Louw indicated that the standard must demonstrate compliance to international best practice. Moreover, it must align to the framework currently being developed by the South African government of local standards. While this has not yet been published, the organisations have engaged with government to gauge what may be required from this.
In terms of the structure of the standards, it will use component methodologies, and landmark projects and landmark values. Moreover, it will make use of technology, using a cloud-based system, the Internet of Things, and distributed ledger technology. The online system is currently in development, with Louw noting good progress on this front, and in-house testing currently being undertaken. Beta testing is being targeted for April. This platform will be used to propose new methodologies, upload new projects, perform audits and issue credits. Users would be the standard secretariat, project owners, accredited owners and observers.
Wild indicated that thus far, version one of the standard had been completed, as well as six component methodologies. The organisations have also made submission for review in relation to the South African Carbon Framework. The distributed ledger proof of concept has also been undertaken, and a governing body and technical body framework has been developed. The organisations have also started the process of trust registration.
Following all of these milestones, they are now targeting developing other methodologies/components in the ecosystem. Moreover, they are seeking support from organisations and companies that it can use in its submission to government. Lastly, they have called for funding to develop new methodologies, upgrade the platform and reach critical mass.
In 6 to 12 months, the organisations are aiming to register as the first South African Carbon Standard. Over the next year, they aim to greatly increase component methodologies in the system; and further, to continue to build the ecosystem.
Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online