The world's leading voluntary GHG program

The VCS Program

Individuals and corporations around the world are recognizing the importance of reducing their GHG emissions. As a result, many of them are reducing their carbon footprints through energy efficiency and other measures. Quite often, however, it is too expensive for these entities to meet their targets or eliminate their carbon footprint entirely with internal reductions, and they need a mechanism to achieve these aspirational goals. Enter the carbon markets.

By using the carbon markets, entities can neutralize, or offset, their emissions by retiring carbon credits generated by projects that are reducing GHG emissions elsewhere. Of course, it is critical to ensure, or verify, that the emission reductions generated by these projects are actually occurring. This is the work of the VCS Program – to ensure the credibility of emission reduction projects.

Once projects have been certified against the VCS Program’s rigorous set of rules and requirements, project developers can be issued tradable GHG credits that we call Verified Carbon Units (VCUs).  Those VCUs can then be sold on the open market and retired by individuals and companies as a means to offset their own emissions. Over time, this flexibility channels financing to clean, innovative businesses and technologies.

The VCS Program is the world’s most widely used voluntary GHG program. More than 1300 certified VCS projects have collectively reduced or removed more than 185 million tonnes of GHG emissions from the atmosphere.

How it works

Projects developed under the VCS Program must follow a rigorous assessment process in order to be certified. VCS projects cover a diverse range of sectors, including renewable energy (such as wind and hydroelectric projects), forestry (including the avoidance of deforestation), and others. Emission reductions certified by our program are eligible to be issued as VCUs, with one VCU representing one metric tonne of greenhouse gas emissions reduced or removed from the atmosphere.

VCS Standard:  The VCS Standard lays out the rules and requirements which all projects must follow in order to be certified.

Independent Auditing: All VCS projects are subject to desk and field audits by both qualified independent third parties and VCS staff to ensure that standards are met and methodologies are properly applied.

Accounting Methodologies: Projects are assessed using a technically sound GHG emission reduction quantification methodology specific to that project type.

Registry System: The VCS registry system is the central storehouse of data on all registered projects, and tracks the generation, retirement and cancellation of all VCUs. To register with the program, projects must show that they have met all standards and methodological requirements.

While VCS projects typically include a discrete set of activities, governments are now establishing policies and programs to mitigate GHG emissions across entire national or subnational jurisdictions. In the forest sector, these programs (called REDD+ programs) can be accounted for and credited using the world’s first jurisdictional-scale framework, the VCS Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ (JNR) framework. JNR integrates government-led and project-level REDD+ activities and establishes a clear pathway for subnational- and project-level activities to be incorporated within broader REDD+ programs.

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