Why Do I Want Carbon Credits That Are Third-Party Verified?

Carbon markets are often compared to commodity markets. Farmers capture carbon by introducing new practices, carbon programs package the impact from many farmers into carbon credits, and then sell them to buyers wanting to offset their own emissions. Unlike corn or beans, however, it’s impossible to take physical possession of a tonne of carbon. So buyers want to know that what they are paying for is legitimate – and that’s why third-party verification is so important.

To explain how carbon credits are verified and issued, we sat down with Max DuBuisson, Indigo’s Head of Sustainability Policy & Engagement

Who verifies and issues carbon credits?

There are several well-respected greenhouse gas (GHG) offset program registries that issue carbon credits in the United States and around the world, including Climate Action Reserve (CAR), Verified Carbon Standard (Verra VCS), American Carbon Registry and Gold Standard. These independent, non-profit organizations enforce specific, strict standards for quantifying and verifying GHG emissions reduction programs to ensure the integrity, transparency, and financial value of the North American voluntary carbon market. 

Indigo created an innovative methodology for agricultural carbon programs, and has the first approach listed under the Soil Enrichment Protocol with CAR. They are also the first to have a biogeochemical model calibrated, validated, and approved for use under this new protocol.

What does CAR require to issue credits?

CAR’s registry requirements ensure the scientific rigor and validity of carbon credits. To be issued, a carbon credit must be real, additional, permanent and independently verified:

  • Real — the credit represents actual greenhouse gas emissions that were avoided or removed from the atmosphere
  • Additional — the emissions reduction or removal from your practice is truly incremental and would not have occurred if you just continued historical practices
  • Permanent — the emissions reduction or removal will continue “permanently” and accounts for any “reversals” (i.e., it will have a long-term impact and won’t be reversed due to unforeseen events like fire or disease)
  • Independently verified — before credits are issued, the project data, methods, reports, and results must be reviewed and approved by accredited experts in GHG project accounting

In addition, to receive CAR’s “stamp of approval,” Indigo had to:

  1. Demonstrate that our model is consistent with all existing peer-reviewed, published datasets specific to the crops, practices, soils and climate zones of growers in the project, and accurately reflects real-world dynamics and output uncertainty.
  2. Hire an independent modeling expert to review and approve our model calibration and validation.

That explains why the program is currently to 28 states and 19 crop types – because that’s where there are enough long-term data on soil carbon change available to validate that the model performs accurately. 

Why does independent verification matter?

Just like buyers of yellow #2 corn, carbon credit buyers place a premium on credits that have been independently verified against stringent standards. This certainty gives them confidence that their environmental impact is real and long-lasting, and that credits are marketable. Third-party verification ensures high quality credits and gives farmers access to buyers willing to pay premium prices. 

How does my impact get translated into dollars?

Farmers are guaranteed to receive 75% of their total credit value. Indigo sells credits generated each year directly to buyers through its extensive buyer network. For 2022, we have seen a minimum of $20/credit with the potential to earn up to $30/credit.

Have specific questions about your eligibility for a carbon program?