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David Antonioli

02 February 2011
David Antonioli
  • It’s three years since the VCS officially launched and market conditions are very different – how has it fared?

The pace of VCS growth has been nothing short of fantastic for three years. Just last week the VCS registry system reached 50 million VCU issuances, which shows quite a bit of activity taking place under the VCS. Even with people disappointed over the lack of a global treaty, the fact that climate action is becoming less centralized is spurring demand for VCS. Many businesses and governments know they don’t have the luxury of waiting for a global treaty, and they are using tools like those VCS offers to take action on the ground. There is also lots of new work in terms of preparing sub-national or national-level regulations, and VCS offers tools that are very relevant to those efforts.

  • Why are you re-naming the VCS as the Verified Carbon Standard, who are you targeting, and what does this mean for the VCS’s entry into newly regulated carbon markets?

We need everyone to know right away that the name stands for quality assurance, which has always been the whole point of the VCS. Putting 'verified' in the name is going to swing open doors for VCS projects and credits and help us link to new opportunities in new markets, especially as regulations take shape and new markets evolve. This is in no way a move away from voluntary action; this is about taking voluntary action to the next level and making sure everyone recognizes its value when done properly. VCS credits are verified – and that is recognized by investors and increasingly it is recognized by emerging regimes – and yet in most places regulations have yet to take shape. So right now we have many newcomers working to curb emissions and they are turning to standards like VCS for tools and best practices, so we need to make sure that the name reinforces our main brand proposition, which is quality.

  • What continues to set the VCS apart as one of the most robust global carbon standards?

VCS is a total quality assurance system for carbon credits, but more than any other, it provides a robust platform for innovation and it is scalable. Already the VCS has enabled new project types like avoided deforestation, where we now offer a range of methodologies, and next month we will be issuing requirements to enable projects that would rewet and/or conserve peatlands. And new methodologies continually are being developed under the rules we have established. From a scale perspective, the VCS has a truly global reach, and it can also be expanded to include as many new registries, new methodologies and new projects as markets have the capacity to develop. We’re fairly unique in combining quality assurance with the capacity to innovate, expand and build links to new markets.

  • There have been security issues in the European markets recently; what implications, if any, are there for innovative registries like yours and for confidence in the global market for carbon?

Unfortunately, in the internet age we all have to be vigilant to prevent scams like what occurred in the EU recently. That said, the VCS registry system is a closed system, which means that VCUs cannot leave the VCS registry system and all transfers within the system are tracked. We certainly need to remain vigilant and ensure that all proper steps are taken to prevent fraudulent activities, but carbon markets are not unique in this, and in part that is why the VCS multiple registry system is so important. Ultimately carbon markets must be able to expand and connect into a global system, and we will have to grapple with linking and security issues to do that. The whole purpose of the VCS project database is to maintain transparency in an expandable registry system, so it’s a working model for how we can start addressing this.

  • How will you maintain the VCS’s popularity in these new markets and where do you think it will be in another 5 years?

Demand for VCS is growing in new markets because our tools are relevant to the needs of businesses and governments wanting to take action on climate change. But we need to remain relevant and on the cutting edge by continually sharpening and updating those tools and by working hard to make sure everyone knows the tools that are available. There are a number of activities already underway to ensure we remain relevant, from next month’s publication of our revised program documentation following an extensive public stakeholder consultation process, to the development of requirements for standardized approaches to project crediting, to an updated and more effective website later in the year. There will of course be plenty of challenges over the coming years, and we need to be diligent in pursuing those actively and being a part of the long-term solution to climate change.

Our aim is to provide a platform for the development of projects that reduce emissions, and I would hope that in 5-years time there will be a strong track record of thousands of projects using the VCS because it ensures quality assurance whilst also providing a streamlined approach that allows for innovation and is scalable. I would also expect that VCUs would be accepted as pre-compliance or compliance units in emerging regulatory frameworks.


As CEO, David Antonioli charts the course for VCSA strategy and policy development and spearheads outreach to government, business and environment leaders. He has worked in carbon markets since 1994, consulting for leading global organizations including ICF International, USAID and EcoSecurities. He holds a BA from Princeton University and an MA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

VCS is the most widely used greenhouse gas accounting standard and program for projects issuing credits in the voluntary carbon market. Founded in 2005 by The Climate Group, the International Emissions Trading Association and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, VCS has pioneered robust and innovative tools for generating quality GHG credits of lasting environmental integrity.

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