Verified Carbon Units (VCUs)
Under the VCS Program, projects are issued unique carbon credits known as Verified Carbon Units or VCUs. Each VCU represents a reduction or removal of one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) achieved by a project. VCUs are characterized by a number of quality assurance principles which are confirmed through the project validation and verification process. VCUs are ultimately purchased and retired by an end user as a means of offsetting their emissions. All VCU issuance and retirement records are publicly available on the VCS Project Database.
Note that VCUs can be labelled with certifications awarded by other, non-GHG programs that have been approved by VCS. These additional certifications typically represent community and biodiversity benefits achieved by projects, in addition to the climate benefits inherent in a VCU. These additional certifications bring added value to VCUs, often allowing them to be sold at a premium. For more information on VCU labels, see the list of VCS-approved additional certifications.
VCUs are issued to registry account holders listed with one of VCS’ approved registry operators, APX or Markit. Registry account holders are companies or organizations which are interested in holding and transacting VCUs, and are typically project developers, carbon credit brokers and other entities involved in carbon markets. Registry account holders must pass strict know-your-customer background checks performed by their registry operator prior to opening an account. Individuals may not open VCS registry accounts, and registry account holders are not authorized to hold VCUs on behalf of individuals – see below* for more information.
Ownership of VCUs can only be transferred between VCS registry accounts. VCUs cannot be transferred to other databases or traded as paper certificates. Registry account holders wishing to transact VCUs should perform their own due diligence to assess the risks associated with a given transaction. Registry account holders interested in finding a trusted seller may contact an organization adhering to codes of conduct such as those listed by:
- Green-e Climate: a non-profit that monitors and certifies carbon retail transactions and products.
- ICROA/IETA: a voluntary association of carbon sellers who follow a code of good practice. Members submit audited reports.
Note that VCS maintains an impartial position in the carbon market and does not hold, transact or solicit trades of VCUs.
* As stated above, individuals may not hold VCS registry accounts or VCUs, and registry account holders are not authorized to hold VCUs on behalf of individuals. VCUs may only be retired on behalf of individuals by entities which hold an active registry account with either APX or Markit.
In addition to the above, VCUs are not suitable investments for individuals. Please see the CMIA/ICROA/IETA Statement on the suitability of Carbon Credits for investment by the General Public. If you have been approached to purchase VCUs as an investment or if you have any questions, please contact VCS.
Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standards
Supporting land use projects in addressing climate change, supporting local communities and smallholders and conserving biodiversity
California Offset Project Registry
The VCS Offset Project Registry (OPR) facilitates the participation of offset projects within the California cap-and-trade program