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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance

Recommendations for enabling the voluntary carbon market in the context of the Paris Agreement

  • The Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM) is essential to mobilise the capital required to achieve the Paris objectives
  • Uncertainty around Article 6 of the Paris agreement is holding back urgent investment

Climate change is a global issue that requires a co-ordinated global response. The Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan agreed at COP27 concluded that a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investment of at least USD $4-6 trillion a year[i].

The Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM) presents an opportunity for immediate climate action by delivering the significant private funding to climate positive investments. The VCM also enables companies to support decarbonisation beyond their own carbon footprint and accelerate the broader transition to a lower carbon future.

As the need for climate action becomes increasingly urgent, and the number of firms committing to net-zero continues to grow rapidly, the VCM could reach USD $50 billion in value by 2030[ii]. However, uncertainties surrounding Article 6 of the Paris Agreement and its implications for the VCM are holding back activity.

The City of London Corporation, the UK Voluntary Carbon Markets Forum and Clifford Chance LLP have collaborated on this research paper to identify and help address some of the most pertinent uncertainties and other issues facing the Paris mechanisms and the VCM. It is intended to promote useful discussion on the topic globally and drive forward progress.

The issues can be summarised into three key themes:

1. Areas of uncertainty preventing engagement in the Paris mechanisms and the VCM

2. Concerns regarding the integrity and credibility of carbon credits

3. Lack of government support

Catherine McGuinness, Chair of the UK Voluntary Carbon Markets Forum's communications workstream, said: “Carbon credits are an important step in securing a path to net zero. The climate benefits are clear, including enabling the efficient channelling of investment from the global north to support nations in the global south who have made significant Paris-based climate commitments and offer the world an array of nature-based solutions. As a global financial centre at the forefront of pioneering new green financing tools and techniques, London is keen to accelerate the development of a high quality, high integrity VCM. That means overcoming existing uncertainties to ensure carbon credits are a critical part of the climate action required to meet the Paris objectives.”

Nigel Howorth, Partner and Global head of the Environment Group at Clifford Chance added: “The international community needs to act with urgency on climate change. We’ve therefore outlined eleven specific issues and uncertainties that exist between the Paris mechanisms and the VCM which, if not resolved, may hinder the opportunity presented by the VCM to deliver that immediate climate action. To promote useful discussion on the topic globally and drive forward progress we’ve identified short, medium and long-term recommendations aimed at unlocking the true potential of the Paris mechanisms and the VCM. We must act decisively, with a commitment to integrity and delivering real climate impact, if the ambition of the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan is to be realised.”

Download the paper.

[i] United Nations

[ii] McKinsey

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