The Gold Standard is the world’s only high quality certification standard for carbon offsets, created to ensure that international compliance and voluntary carbon markets work towards a long-term solution to mitigate climate change while promoting sustainable development and other environmental benefits. In 2004 an alliance of large nongovernmental organizations, including Helio International, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and SouthSouthNorth, established the Gold Standard to define a “high quality” offset in a market awash with illusory emissions reductions. To be eligible for the Gold Standard seal, carbon offset projects must (1) employ renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, (2) adhere to the strictest standards on additionality, and (3) positively impact the economy, health, welfare and environment of the local community hosting the project. The Gold Standard continues to innovate on issues related to mitigation in the poorest nations.
Key to the Gold Standard’s formula for a high quality project is the involvement of the project’s local host community – those most affected by climate change – without whose cooperation projects are more vulnerable and likely to fail. As a result of the Gold Standard’s emphasis on community involvement and sustainability, hundreds of communities have reaped co-benefits such as job creation, improved health and healthcare services, access to affordable electricity and stimulus to the local economy. To date, there are over 400 projects in the Gold Standard pipeline and approximately two million Gold Standard carbon credits have been issued.
Having established itself as the benchmark standard for high quality, the Gold Standard must maintain and build upon this leadership position. Its three immediate goals are: 1) to develop greater awareness of the benefits of its approach among international governments and businesses, which will further build the demand for, and supply of, Gold Standard projects and credits; 2) to build capacity among auditors and governments to certify projects against the Gold Standard, specifically with regard to cookstove projects, and; 3) to expand the range of project types and methodologies that are applicable under the Gold Standard. By way of example, the Gold Standard just approved the third version of its improved cookstove methodology.
Governments also regard the Gold Standard as a leader in the field of climate change. On December 5, 2009, the Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization (TGO) launched The Crown Standard, which distinguishes high quality CDM projects in Thailand. Prior to launching The Crown Standard, the TGO held extensive consultations with the Gold Standard, specifically on the Gold Standard’s sustainable development criteria and assessment. Ultimately, the TGO modeled The Crown Standard’s sustainability assessments after the Gold Standard, resulting in a formal partnership between the two. Several governments have followed suit, and the Gold Standard is currently in confidential talks with three other governments to form similar partnerships.
Our Experience And Interest In The Four PCIA Central Focus Areas
The key factor that distinguishes the Gold Standard from other certifiers in the market is the Gold Standard's focus on the local host community. Our project cycle implements a four-prong Sustainability Assessment that must account for all barriers to the use of improved cookstoves. In addition, the support of local NGOs is crucial to the Gold Standard’s success because NGOs serve as the Gold Standard’s “eyes and ears” on the ground. These NGOs, who apply to become a Gold Standard “NGO Supporter,” attend local stakeholder meetings and provide critical feedback on the impacts of a proposed project. In several instances, the Gold Standard delayed a project’s registration until the project developer resolved the concerns of a local NGO Supporter. To date, the Gold Standard has over sixty-five (65) NGO Supporters.
Innovation has played a key role in the success of the Gold Standard, enabling it to facilitate carbon finance projects that deliver carbon reduction and sustainable development in developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDC). The Gold Standard will continue to innovate, with a focus on LDCs and Small Island Developing States, which often struggle to attract carbon finance due to their small baseline emissions.
The Gold Standard currently does not get involved in the technology standardization, but it is a strategic focus that we will explore in 2011.
Monitoring is an integral component of our project cycle. As part of our Sustainability Assessment, the project developer and the local host community must rate certain co-benefit indicators. Any indicator, such as indoor air pollution, that is rated positive (benefits the community) or negative (harms the community) must be included in the project's monitoring plan, which is then audited by an independent third party auditor.
Relevant Publications or Studies
Our Contribution to the Partnership
Over the last 5 years, the Gold Standard has developed expertise around improved cookstove projects. Each of our markets (Central America, South America, China, India, and Africa) has at least one cookstove project and, in the case of China, India and Africa, many times more. The Gold Standard can contribute technical expertise, carbon finance expertise, and expertise regarding successful project implementation.