Voluntary Carbon Markets (VCMs)

Voluntary Carbons Markets (VCMs) are incentive-based markets enabling businesses or individuals to obtain Voluntary Carbon Credits (VCCs) to offset emissions on a voluntary basis. They can be used to offset emissions that are unavoidable due to current technological or cost constraints.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What different types of Voluntary Carbon Credits are there?

    Emissions that are removed from directly from the atmosphere and then safely stored are known as ‘removal’ carbon credits. Examples include Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies and biochar. Projects that reduced emissions against a baseline level from an existing technology or process are known as ‘reduction’ carbon credits, for example the adoption of low-emission cooking stoves. Finally, projects that prevent an activity happening that would result in the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are known as ‘avoidance’ carbon credits. Preventing deforestation is a common example.


    Credits may also be classified as ‘nature-based’ or ‘technology-based’, which may alter the credit’s value.  For example carbon captured through nature-based removal is sometimes vulnerable to being re-released into the atmosphere after a relatively short time frame compared to technology-based carbon capture and storage. However nature-based credits often offer additional benefits such as enhancing biodiversity, saving endangered habitats or improving the lives of local communities.


  • Do they just cover carbon dioxide (CO2)?

    Carbon credits are usually per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, which includes carbon dioxide itself or an equivalent amount of other significant greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide or methane.

  • How can I buy Voluntary Carbon Credits?

    Voluntary Carbon Credits (VCCs) can be obtained in a variety of ways. Direct investment in an offset project may confer rights to the carbon credits that are generated, or a party might contract directly with a project to purchase a defined number of credits on a one-off or ongoing basis. There are also several registries and exchanges where carbon credits are traded.


    C-Zero has links to key registries and a range of projects, both nature and technology-based, offering easy access to high-quality carbon credits. Projects can be selected to best reflect the values and aspirations of your specific business.


  • What makes a carbon credit high-quality?

    Additionality – ensuring that the emissions reduction, avoidance, or capture would not have occurred if the associated carbon credit project was not in place.

    Quantification, monitoring, reporting and verification – there should be rigorous data collection to ensure that emissions reductions are real and transparent reporting of this data and all underlying assumptions. Verification may be undertaken or audited by a third party.


    No double-counting – each credit must represent a single tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent that has only been claimed once. Proof or credit retirement should be included – with a ‘credit’ becoming an ‘offset’ upon its retirement.

    Credible baseline –the emissions that would have occurred if the project was not in place should be accurately defined, so that the impact of the project can be correctly measured.

    Permanence – emissions reductions, removals or prevention projects should be lasting in nature and prevent carbon release to atmosphere over the long-term, preferably over centuries or millennia rather than decades.

    Co-benefits – ideally a carbon credit should not only represent a reduction in emissions, but also offer additional environmental and/or social benefits.

    C-Zero have the experience and links to be able to procure carbon credits that meet these criteria and offer genuine carbon offsetting.


  • How is the quality of Voluntary Carbon Credits verified?

    Ensuring that a carbon credit represents a genuine reduction, removal or capture of carbon is challenging. Accounting and verification methodologies vary and co-benefits (such as community economic development and biodiversity protection) are often poorly defined.


    Projects should be carefully selected to ensure that they have robust quantification, monitoring, reporting and verification practices in place.

    Some registries have protocols governing creation, issuance, 3rd-party verification, and tracking of carbon credits. There are also rating systems that independently assess carbon credits and assign a score based on various factors, including the project’s environmental and social impact. It is a developing market and some high-quality projects may not have been assessed in this way but may still offer robust and high-quality credits.

    C-Zero are experienced in assisting businesses in navigating what can be a complicated market, ensuring that carbon credits obtained offer real and quantifiable benefits.


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