RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Carbon credits could make a significant contribution to achieving net zero by 2050, but only if participants address issues over limited supply and integrity, the Secretary General of the International Energy Forum told a conference.
Trade in voluntary carbon credits could grow 100-fold by 2050 if teething problems are addressed, Joseph McMonigle said in a keynote address to the S&P Global Carbon Markets Conference in Barcelona.
“There is a huge opportunity for voluntary carbon markets, which can only be realized with concerted international efforts. Overall, the market is characterized by low liquidity, scarce financing, inadequate risk-management services, and limited data availability. Building trust in the market is vital to achieving these goals so we must work harder to improve transparency, standardization and stability,” he told the audience in Barcelona.
A carbon credit is a permit which allows a country or organization to produce a certain amount of carbon emissions and which can be traded if the full allowance is not used. They come from four categories: avoided nature loss including deforestation; nature-based sequestration, such as reforestation; avoidance or reduction of emissions such as methane from landfills; and technology-based removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere like carbon capture, utilization and storage. According to the World Bank, global carbon credit revenue grew 60 percent to $84 billion in 2021.
The Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets estimates that demand for carbon credits could increase by a factor of 15 or more by 2030 and by a factor of up to 100 by 2050. Management consultant McKinsey issued a report in 2021 that estimates demand in 2030 in the range of 8 to 12 gigatons of CO2 per year of carbon credits.
“It is critical that purchasing a carbon credit can be trusted to bring a real reduction in CO2 emissions,” Mr McMonigle told the conference. “The market today lacks transparency and there is a lack of data on how money is spent. The world will need a voluntary carbon market that is large, transparent, verifiable, and environmentally robust.”
In 2016, the European Commission found that 85 percent of projects it examined were unlikely to achieve their stated reduction claims. Similar conclusions were found in a 2019 ProPublica investigation and a 2021 study on forest preservation in California.