VCS Overview

  • VCS is the world’s largest voluntary greenhouse gas reduction program. We were founded in 2005 by a collection of business and environmental leaders who saw a need for greater quality assurance in voluntary carbon markets. Since that day, VCS projects all across the world have removed more than 125 million tonnes of CO2e from the atmosphere. 

  • VCS projects generate credits known as Verified Carbon Units or VCUs. Each VCU represents a reduction or removal of one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). All VCUs represent an emission reduction or removal that is real, measurable, additional, permanent, conservatively estimated, uniquely numbered and transparently listed.

  • There are more than a thousand individual VCS projects all across the world, focusing on everything from clean energy, to agriculture. In fact, VCS projects can be registered in any of 15 different categories (known in the industry as sectoral scopes).  VCS is also on the cutting edge of enabling the development of programs, like our Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ Framework, that allows for regions, states, or even countries to implement polices and programs that allow for GHG reduction on a much larger scale.

  • VCS is the world’s largest voluntary greenhouse gas reduction program, by orders of magnitude. With more than 1000 projects, it’s hard to find a corner of the world that VCS doesn’t touch. We’ve experience this rapid growth due in large part to the guidance of our board, which is made of some of the pioneers of the carbon market, as well as the incredible expertise of a talented staff. We have been able to harness this expertise to organize key committees and working groups that have unlocked major innovations in the carbon market, like AFOLU projects and our JNR framework.

  • The VCS registry is your one-stop-shop for any question you might have about a VCS project or VCU. It is important to remember that VCUs exist only within the VCS registry system. As such, VCU ownership cannot be demonstrated by the issuance of a certificate.

    As part of our Program Quality initiative, we review projects to ensure they meet the highest environmental standards and that each VCU represents a reduction or removal of one ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).

  • VCS is headquartered in Washington, DC and has offices and representatives in Beijing (China), Santiago (Chile) and Sao Paolo (Brazil). Any questions about the VCS Program can be directed in the local language to the relevant staff member in-country, or in English to secretariat@v-c-s.org. If you’re a member of the media, we recommend you visit the VCS Press Room.

VCS Program

Carbon Market

  • Companies, governments, organizations and individuals from around the world are increasingly acknowledging their climate impacts by supporting projects that reduce or remove the greenhouse gases (GHG) accelerating climate change. In 2012 alone, these voluntary actions avoided more than 100 million tons of GHG emissions — equivalent to removing more than 20 million cars off the road — and provided more than $500 million of support to implement innovative climate activities. This exchange of environmental services is known as the voluntary carbon market. Within the voluntary carbon market, VCS serves as the leading quality assurance standard; more than half of all transacted credits are issued through the VCS program, according to Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets. 

  • VCS does not buy or sell carbon credits, nor track prices or sales. Likewise, we are not an investment firm, and as such, do not provide any direct advice on the purchase or trading of VCUs. Those interested in buying VCUs from a VCS project should contact the relevant project proponent directly, or find a trusted seller adhering to codes of conduct such as the organizations listed by Green-e Climate or ICROA/IETA. For information on VCU prices, a good source of free information is the Ecosystem Marketplace annual State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets. 

  • A project registered with an approved GHG program such as the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) can register with VCS as long as if the project does not claim credit for the same GHG emission reduction or removal under both programs. Several CDM projects have done so, claiming the emission reductions achieved after the project became operational but before official registration with CDM. In addition, a project registered with an approved GHG program can cancel all or a portion of the credits issued by the program and choose to issue those credits as VCUs instead. Download the VCS Standard as well as the Registration and Issuance Process for more details.

  • Required documents for every registered VCS project are available on the VCS Project Database.  Stakeholders can download project descriptions, monitoring reports, and validation/verification reports as well as information on every VCU issued within the VCS registry system. In addition, forthcoming projects that have yet to complete validation are listed on the VCS Project Pipeline.

  • Projects that reduce GHG emissions from activities included in an emissions trading program are required to provide their validation/verification body with evidence demonstrating that the GHG emission reductions or removals have not and will not otherwise be counted or used. Projects that are registered with another GHG program may register with the VCS and issue VCUs, but the appropriate steps need to be taken in order to prevent double-counting. Likewise, projects that have sought or received another form of GHG-related environmental credit, such as renewable energy certificates, must provide their registry administrator with evidence demonstrating that such credits have not been used or have been cancelled.

    VCS has provided further clarification on this issue in a Double Counting Policy Brief. In addition, VCS has issued a policy decision for projects located in Canada. Stakeholders are encouraged to contact the VCS Secretariat to clarify whether a double counting risk exists with their project or program.