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Biden Administration Sets New Standards for Voluntary Carbon Markets to Drive Climate Action

By Stacy M. Brown

President Joe Biden has led a momentous climate agenda, marking significant achievements through legislation and executive action. The Inflation Reduction Act, a landmark climate investment, and executive measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all economic sectors are clear demonstrations of this commitment. Under Biden’s Investing in America agenda, over $860 billion in business investments have been sparked in future-focused industries such as electric vehicles, clean energy, and semiconductors, bolstered by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act.

In a fact sheet, the White House noted that these investments are not only creating new manufacturing and clean energy jobs but also breathing new life into previously overlooked communities.

The Biden-Harris Administration said it remains committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. “This commitment is not just about the environment, but also about creating economic opportunities across diverse American businesses, from rural farms to innovative tech companies and historically underserved entrepreneurs,” officials noted in the fact sheet.

Key officials, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, have co-signed a Joint Statement of Policy and new Principles for Responsible Participation in Voluntary Carbon Markets (VCMs) as part of this vision. These principles lay out the U.S. government’s strategy for advancing high-integrity VCMs, ensuring they drive credible climate action and economic opportunity.

Officials said high-integrity VCMs can significantly enhance decarbonization by providing reliable revenue streams for various projects and practices, including nature-based solutions and innovative climate technologies. However, the White House contends that current challenges in VCMs, such as unreliable crediting methodologies and insufficient decarbonization outcomes, necessitate further action.

The administration’s new principles address these issues by establishing robust standards for carbon credit supply and demand, improving market functioning, ensuring fair treatment of all participants, and instilling market confidence.

The specific principles for responsible participation in VCMs are designed to ensure that the market operates with integrity. These principles include ensuring carbon credits represent real decarbonization, avoiding environmental and social harm, supporting co-benefits and inclusive benefits-sharing, prioritizing emissions reductions within corporate value chains, and maintaining transparency and high standards in credit use. The aim is to prevent greenwashing and ensure that VCMs are a tool for emissions reduction, not a replacement for them.

The Biden-Harris Administration is also advancing efforts to develop VCMs, including initiatives to create new climate opportunities for farmers and forest landowners, conduct first-of-its-kind credit purchases, and advance carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technology. For instance, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is implementing programs to help farmers and forest landowners participate in VCMs. At the same time, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced a $35 million Carbon Dioxide Removal Purchase Pilot Prize and other investments in CDR technologies.

Additionally, the administration is involved in international standard-setting efforts and supporting high-integrity VCMs in global markets. The U.S. government is engaged in initiatives like the LEAF Coalition and the Energy Transition Accelerator, which promote sector-wide approaches to decarbonization and support projects in developing countries.

U.S. regulatory agencies, such as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), promote transparency and combat fraud in VCMs to ensure market integrity. An interagency Task Force on Voluntary Carbon Markets has been established to coordinate actions across the administration.

“The Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to high-integrity VCMs is crucial for channeling private capital toward effective climate solutions, preserving ecosystems, and achieving U.S. and global climate goals,” officials observed.


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