Carbon Direct and Microsoft Release 2022 Update to the Criteria for High-Quality Carbon Dioxide Removal

In 2021, Carbon Direct and Microsoft released our joint Criteria for High-Quality Carbon Dioxide Removal. Our initial goal was to provide carbon removal project developers with expert guidance to improve the quality of their projects and their resulting removal credits. The impact and success of that document has far exceeded our expectations. It has led to numerous project developers across a range of carbon removal solutions reaching out for further guidance as to how to implement the Criteria. It has also led to corporate buyers of removals wanting to learn more about how they can utilize the Criteria to ensure the highest level of quality in their carbon credit portfolios.

In developing these Criteria, our intent was for them to be part of a living document, to be updated as the science progresses and as the carbon removal market evolves. And the carbon dioxide removal landscape is indeed evolving very rapidly – partly spurred by the recent scientific consensus in the 2022 IPCC 6th Assessment Report that asserts that carbon removals are “essential” to achieving global climate targets. 

As such, it is more important than ever that we continue to support the identification and standardization of high-quality criteria for carbon removal – which is why we are excited to release our first Criteria update. This update reflects the latest developments in carbon removal science as well as the new types of projects (like blue carbon) that are demonstrating significant potential for climate impact as part of our clients’ portfolios.

READ THE 2022 CRITERIA FOR HIGH-QUALITY CARBON DIOXIDE REMOVAL HERE

“The Criteria for High-Quality Removal provided valuable guidance to project developers that wanted to take part in Microsoft’s procurement efforts or any other corporate purchase,” said Rafael Broze, Carbon Removal Program Manager at Microsoft. “We’re pleased to have Carbon Direct continue to refine those criteria in an effort to strengthen common standards for both developers of projects to follow as well as educate buyers how to identify high-quality projects.”

“Microsoft and Carbon Direct have collaborated on the Criteria for High-Quality Carbon Dioxide Removal for two years now and we greatly value their leadership in maturing this market,” said Jonathan Goldberg, CEO of Carbon Direct. “The carbon removal market needs further standardization and stronger frameworks to take its next step forward and provide assurances to the next wave of buyers that come into this market. This document is a stepping stone to that end goal.”

The most substantial updates to the Criteria this year include: 

  • Mangrove Reforestation: Mangrove restoration is gaining traction globally as a carbon removal approach due in part to the co-benefits healthy mangrove ecosystems provide, including helping stabilize coastlines, shelter coastal communities from flooding, and providing nursery habitat for fish. We’ve added criteria specific to high-quality mangrove restoration projects to help inform buyers and project developers interested in this area.
  • Harms & Benefits: We’ve retitled the “Do no harm and pursue co-benefits” section as “Harms and Benefits.” This update was intended to ensure language matches reality. ‘Do no harm’ is an unrealistic bar if taken literally. All projects have consequences, both good and bad, beyond their quantified greenhouse gas impacts. This section acknowledges the complexity of the CO2 removal space, encourages the development of projects with environmental and community benefits, and requires vigorous accounting and remedy of potential project harms.
  • Environmental Justice: We’ve sharpened and streamlined our Environmental Justice criteria to include more vertical specific guidance to further clarify what is expected of project developers.

This Criteria update marks the first of many. Moving forward, Carbon Direct will refresh the Criteria as the carbon removal space matures, keeping pace with the rapidly evolving science and market.  We will add new sections as nascent CDR solutions emerge and become more prominent in the market. We will also continually sharpen our guidance on elements of project quality that have proven challenging for project developers, such as how to establish credible Environmental Justice and Climate Justice plans.

Looking ahead, our focus has expanded to include supporting and guiding candidate suppliers not only for Microsoft’s latest procurement cycle, but also for the carbon market more broadly. This is with the recognition that with the integration of this Criteria, carbon markets will be able to facilitate the deployment of high-quality carbon removal at the scale needed to meet our climate goals.

Acknowledgements

Written by JAMES BURBRIDGE, CLIENT PROJECT MANAGER