Questions to Hillary Navarro, Verra's Chief Communications Officer

Verra's role in climate action, importance of verification and upcoming tech innovation

Founded in 2007, Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program has become the biggest standard in the carbon market. To better understand who Verra is and what it does, we asked a few questions to Hillary Navarro, Verra’s Chief Communications Officer. She shared insights on how the VCS Program can contribute to climate action and what role technology plays in scaling carbon markets with integrity.

What does Verra do and what problem are you trying to solve? How would you define your role within the sustainability ecosystem?

Verra works to facilitate activities that address the world’s most complex environmental and social challenges. We do this through standards programs that credibly and transparently assess projects  and confirm that they have high integrity and verifiable impacts.

The activities these projects implement include reducing or removing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; conserving biodiversity; promoting sustainable development; and collecting and recycling plastic waste.

In essence, Verra supports an accelerated transition to a sustainable future. How we accomplish this is always expanding and evolving, but the fundamental goals remain the same.

One of your programs, the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program, is the world’s leading GHG crediting program. How does this program contribute to climate action?

Climate change is one of the most pressing crises of our time. Verra seeks to catalyze the activities and impact of projects that credibly and verifiably reduce or remove emissions from the atmosphere. The certification of these projects in the VCS Program and the issuance of carbon credits that projects can sell on the open market enables them to generate finance to sustain and scale up their operations and impact, including non-carbon benefits such as improving livelihoods and protecting nature.

To date, VCS projects have reduced or removed more than one billion tons of carbon and other GHG emissions from the atmosphere. This makes the VCS Program a critical and evolving component in the ongoing effort to advance needed climate action and protect our shared environment.

Meanwhile, companies that have reduced their emissions to the extent possible and are looking to compensate for the remaining emissions are able to purchase carbon credits that verifiably minimize their carbon footprint and support global climate goals.

The VCS Program covers activities under a broad range of categories, such as transport; construction; agriculture, forestry, and other land use; carbon capture and storage, and more.

Verra continually innovates by expanding and strengthening existing methodologies within the VCS Program, as well as adding new ones. This creates an ever-increasing number of pathways for driving finance to activities that mitigate the devastating impacts of climate change.

Independent, third-party verification is an essential component of the VCS Program. Why is it important for Verra and what’s the role of Validation/Verification Bodies in the VCS project development process?

Qualified independent, third-party auditing by validation/verification bodies (VVBs) is critical to Verra’s standards programs. It ensures the integrity and quality of projects registered in Verra’s programs and methodologies. Through having an entity outside of the Verra system assess the projects and confirm the number of units Verra issues, it’s possible to eliminate a conflict of interest from these two key processes.

In the context of the VCS Program, VVBs have two functions: (1) they rigorously evaluate projects against the VCS Program rules and the applied methodologies, and (2) they assess methodologies and their elements to confirm that they conform with VCS Program requirements and sector-specific best practices.

When evaluating projects, VVBs perform validation to determine whether a project meets all the rules and requirements of the VCS Program, and verification to confirm that the project has achieved the outcomes stated in its documentation and quantified them appropriately.

VVBs are experts in their respective programs and sectoral scopes or technical areas. They must be accredited by a VCS-recognized accreditation body, receive Verra authorization, sign the required agreement with Verra, and pay the annual VVB fee. This confirms that they are qualified and eligible to perform their functions within Verra’s VCS Program.

Technology is seen as a key driver in scaling carbon markets with integrity. Do you see a role for technology? If yes, where do you see the biggest opportunities from Digital Measurement, Reporting and Verification (DMRV)?

Technology has already played a transformative role in carbon markets, and further enormous impacts are on the horizon. Verra recognizes this potential and is actively looking to deploy technology to further scale the carbon markets with integrity.

Last year, we began a pilot program to develop a DMRV platform that will harness remote sensing technology to measure forest carbon.

There has been a great deal of excitement in the carbon market community about the potential for DMRV platforms, satellite data, and AI models to provide unprecedentedly accurate and large-scale estimates of forest carbon and permanence risks. Accurate, standardized, high-quality technology will increase access to the carbon markets and drive much-needed finance toward protecting and restoring nature while ensuring the strongest possible integrity.

But DMRV is only part of the story. Verra recently released the first functionality of its far-reaching digitalization initiative, which is one of Verra’s top priorities. The new Project Tracker is the first component of the Verra Project Hub, which will become a comprehensive online tool for Verra’s stakeholders. It will provide more transparency and regular updates about projects as they undergo Verra certification and verification. As the platform evolves, the Project Hub’s features will expand to facilitate the online submission of new projects for review, digital assessment of a project’s non-permanence risk, and direct interaction with project auditors.

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