Gold standard carbon offsets

Gold standard carbon offsets

The Gold Standard was established in 2003 by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and other international NGOs to ensure projects reducing carbon emissions under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) also contributed to sustainable development. The Gold Standard for the Global Goals (GS4GG) was launched in 2017 and certifies climate projects and issued Gold Standard carbon offsets, originally known as Verified Emission Reductions (VERs). As of this writing, GS4GG has issued 238,000 million VERs from 2,900 climate projects across 100 countries and competes with VCS Program

Principles of GS4GG certified projects

Principles and Requirements outlines key requirements for registering climate projects:

  1. Contribution to climate security and sustainable development: Projects must prove their contribution to climate change mitigation and/or adaptation, while promoting sustainable development and achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  2. Safeguarding principles: Projects must not harm people or the environment, and must prevent and mitigate any possible negative impacts.
  3. Stakeholder inclusivity: Projects must involve all relevant stakeholders, including local communities, in project design, implementation, and monitoring.
  4. Demonstration of real outcomes: Projects must demonstrate real, measurable, and verifiable results in terms of greenhouse gas emission reductions, sustainable development, and/or SDG contributions.
  5. Financial additionality and ongoing financial need: Projects must prove they would not exist without Gold Standard certification, and need continual financial support to operate and deliver benefits.

Main steps in developing a climate project to generate Gold Standard carbon offsets

There are four phases in the GS4GG certification process:

  1. Project Design: 1.1 Project developers design the project and establish its plan. 1.2 Stakeholder consultation on the project design is conducted. 1.3 SustainCERT reviews draft documentation, requests clarifications where needed, and approves the project design. The project then attains “GOLD STANDARD PROJECT LISTED” status.
  2. Preliminary Design Review: 2.1 Third-party validation is conducted by a validation and verification body (VVB), including a desk review and field visit. 2.2 SustainCERT reviews documentation, requests clarifications, and resolves corrective actions where necessary. The project then attains “GOLD STANDARD DESIGN CERTIFIED” status.
  3. Project Implementation: 3.1 The project developer monitors the project according to the approved monitoring plan during the project design review.
  4. Performance Review: 4.1 Third-party verification is provided by a VVB, including a desk review and field visit. 4.2 SustainCERT reviews documentation, requests clarifications, and resolves corrective actions where necessary. The project then achieves “GOLD STANDARD CERTIFIED PROJECT” status and Gold Standard issues carbon credits.

SustainCERT was founded in 2018 by the Gold Standard Foundation and is now the official certification provider for GS4GG. SustainCERT accredits VVBs, and project developers can choose any VVB.

The Gold Standard Impact Registry tracks the certification status, all certified SDG impacts, and issued Gold Standard carbon offsets for GS4GG projects. This is where carbon offsets are purchased, traded, or retired.

Options for Carbon Credit Owners:

  1. Hold: Owners can retain the carbon credits without immediate action.
  2. Sell: Owners can sell the carbon credits on the marketplace or through a broker to interested buyers.
  3. Retire: Owners can use carbon credits to offset their own carbon footprint or meet sustainability goals.
  4. Transfer: Owners can transfer the carbon credits to another party or organization.

Options for Using VERs in Compliance Market

In March 2020, Gold Standard earned recognition as a CORSIA Eligible Emissions Unit Programme, allowing it to provide Eligible Emissions Units to airline operators for CORSIA compliance. The eligibility was extended to VERs issued for activities starting their first credit period from January 1, 2016, and relating to emission reductions up until the end of 2020, with specific exceptions.

Singapore has announced that starting from 2024, companies will be permitted to use Gold Standard carbon offsets to reduce up to 5% of their reported emissions. Similarly, South Africa has already adopted such a policy, albeit with a higher allowable share. South African businesses can utilize Gold Standard carbon offsets to decrease between 5% and 10% of their reported emissions.

Assistance in implementing the GS4GG climate projects

The process of completing Project Development Documents (PDD) can be complex. Hence, engaging a reputable project developer experienced in crafting PDDs for your specific standard and type of climate project is advisable. Also, consider their pricing and terms. It’s strategic to contact as many project developers as possible, then compare costs and conditions to make an informed decision.

Finances of Gold Standard carbon offsets

There are four expense categories in implementing GS4GG climate projects:

  1. Gold Standard product issuance fee and a flat fee for public registry tracking.
  2. Certification review fees paid to SustainCERT.
  3. Project implementation costs.
  4. Validation and verification costs, which vary depending on the VVB and project design.


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