A Call for Urgency with Integrity at the Start of Climate Week NYC

A Call for Urgency with Integrity at the Start of Climate Week NYC



September 18, 2023

A Call for Urgency with Integrity at the Start of Climate Week NYC

By: Mary Grady, Executive Director, ACR

As Climate Week NYC begins, two principles should guide every discussion and decision: integrity and urgency.

Over the past year, carbon markets have come under intense scrutiny and many investors and corporations have decided it is safer to sit on the sidelines than to invest in climate action now.

Yet, according to the first global stocktake, “global emissions are not in line with modelled global mitigation pathways consistent with the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.” Said less diplomatically, we need to act now with significantly greater urgency and ambition.

This requires a “both / and” mindset for the work in front of us today. We need both integrity and urgency. We need to aggressively phase out hard-to-abate emissions on a trajectory aligned with Paris Agreement targets alongside incentivizing investment in high-quality carbon credits to compensate for residual emissions. We need nature-based solutions and technological innovation. We need emission reductions and removals. We need to create confidence in the best possible projects today and continually improve methodologies.

We simply cannot afford to let our quest for integrity dampen the equally powerful need for urgency. And right now, with many valuable initiatives underway, too many parties are thinking of integrity as a destination, rather than a journey – one that ACR has been on since we launched the first greenhouse gas crediting program in the world in 1996.

Since our founding, we have continually improved our approaches, invested in new methodologies and sunset others. For example, catalyzing carbon finance to scale up grid-connected wind energy accelerated the transition in many countries and drove down costs to a point where carbon finance is no longer needed. Science develops and markets change, so our approaches continued to evolve. And through it all, we kept pushing to bring the best standards to market as quickly as possible, driven by a sense of integrity and urgency.

I agree with the Integrity Council for Voluntary Carbon Markets’ mission to “build integrity and scale will follow.” In fact, it mirrors our own mission, which is to “create confidence in the integrity of carbon markets to catalyze transformational climate results.”

Yet the stocktake’s findings underline the absolute imperative of urgency: “Action is needed to increase both the mitigation ambition of NDCs and the implementation of measures to achieve their targets.” Even if we hit all the NDCs, the analysis finds we will still fall 20-24 gigatons of CO2e shy of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C in 2030.

Carbon markets are the single best global tool we have today to move investors off the sidelines, to bring capital to deserving projects around the world, to help raise ambitions quickly.

Integrity is central to our work at ACR. Standards are revised through stakeholder consultation on a regular basis. Projects are validated and emissions results verified by accredited parties prior to each issuance. Methodologies are continually reviewed and updated through a transparent public comment and scientific peer review process. Credits are issued as serialized units and retired on a public registry. And all of this happens before third parties use benchmarks to evaluate projects or develop ratings. We support all of this and will continue to invest the lion’s share of our work in the integrity of carbon markets.

Yet, as we embark on Climate Week NYC – and as many of us head to COP 28 later this fall – I implore us all to keep urgency in the picture. The big message of the global stocktake is that we are not moving fast enough. And when it comes to climate change, going slow is the same as failing.