Verra Rejects The Guardian’s Reporting It Will Replace Its Rainforest Offset Program

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One of the most respected and trusted news media The Guardian continues to follow the topic of credibility of voluntary carbon offsets and the activities of Verra regarding the matter after the media’s investigation caused a significant stir in the market of voluntary carbon credits. 

Relevant: The Guardian Investigation Of Verra Carbon Offsets Claims More Than 90% Are “Worthless”

The Guardian reported a new update on March 10th saying Verra will phase out and replace its rainforest offsets program by mid-2025 after its investigation found it was flawed. 

The Guardian based its claims on a meeting it reported from last Tuesday where Verra’s senior director of forest carbon innovation, Julie Baroody, responsible for the rainforest offsets program, made comments about the issues raised by the investigation.

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“We need to be moving on from the current approaches and we are doing that. But for now, we still stand by all of our current methodologies as the best in class and we’ve reviewed them over the years. We will be revising certain parts of them going forward until we have this new methodology in place at which point in time, we will phase out the current methodologies,” said Baroody, as reported by The Guardian.

According to the media, Verra has confirmed to the Guardian that it anticipated that all projects would switch to the new system by July 2025 and that many projects would change before that date once deforestation data became available.

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The Guardian also reported that in the meantime, Verra would stand by current methods for producing rainforest offsets even though authors of Verra’s own rules for the carbon credits say they are flawed and open to exploitation, potentially allowing tens of millions of worthless carbon credits to be issued and sold to companies before the updated new rules are published.

In February 2023, Verra announced it will release a new REDD Methodology in Q3 of 2023 and subsequently transition all projects to it. In the meantime, Verra issued errata and clarifications as well as minor updates to the current VCS Avoiding Unplanned Deforestation and/or Degradation (AUDD) methodologies (VM0006, VM0007, VM0009, VM0015, VM0037).

According to the Guardian, the non-profit has also said that buyers would have the option to request a project to use the new rules. 

Verra’s Response

Verra released a response to the Guardian’s article on March 10th, rejecting the Guardian’s reporting that it will replace its rainforest offsets program and claiming its decision for updates on the program was not a result of the investigation: 

“Verra is not scrapping its REDD methodologies. An update to REDD has been subject to consultation for many years. A key outcome of the latest consultation, which took place a year ago, was to bring forward release of the update to July-September 2023. Existing REDD projects will use this update when data for their respective jurisdictions are available and approved.”

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According to the company, the decisions for updates of its REDD methodologies were made before the Guardian’s reporting and the work on REDD is consistent with its efforts to improve its standards. It consults with experts with a wide range of views and then develops consensus solutions.

In its update, The Guardian also shared a comment from Britaldo Soares-Filho, a professor in environmental modeling at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, whose land-use change software is used by some projects to generate carbon credits. According to him, there is a contradiction in Verra’s decision to replace its system.

“When I saw those people using our models in their projects, I saw that I was part of this mess. I have a responsibility to demystify (the system). Verra has validated credits using disgraced methodologies and now they say they are going to change everything. Those credits are mostly hot air. What’s going to happen to the projects? There are a lot of question marks out there,” he stated.

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The Guardian’s investigation and continued reporting on the developments of Verra’s case shows there are confusion internally within Verra regarding whether the REDD methodologies will remain with some updates or whether the updates will essentially completely phase out the current methodologies by 2025. 

The Guardian’s reporting confirms the latter which is based on statements made by Verra’s senior management. Verra’s official response to the article, however, claims the former statement is true. 

What we could take away from The Guardian’s update is that Verra is on its way to release new updates on its current methodologies and subsequently they are more likely than not to lead to a complete phase-out of the current methodologies by 2025.

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