Acorn and the Core Carbon Principles

In this article, we cover the Core Carbon Principles (or CCPs) — something you may have heard of if you’re active or interested in the voluntary carbon market, but might not fully understand.

What are the Core Carbon Principles ?

Devised by the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM), an organization consisting of multiple stakeholders (including our own certifier, Plan Vivo) — from academia, science, program development, NGOs, and so on, this set of principles is a global benchmark for the voluntary carbon market to assess high-integrity carbon credits. The Assessment Framework set out criteria to assess how carbon-crediting programs (Part I) and categories of carbon credits (Part II) can meet the Core Carbon Principles. Part I of the Assessment Framework was published in March 2023, and Part II in July 2023.

The 10 Core Carbon Principles

To understand how Acorn program relates to the CCPs, it’s important to first define what these 10 principles consist of. These are the 10 Core Carbon Principles, as defined by the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (source).

At Acorn, we use these principles to guide ourselves towards a more robust and transparent carbon program in the voluntary carbon market. As a unifying initiative, this set of principles has clear value — and for us, they are a good way to see how the market views high-integrity carbon credits, and in which areas we can still improve.

Acorn and the Core Carbon Principles

So, what makes Acorn stand out from other carbon standards in the VCM? And what are our major findings on CCPs?

1. Significant benefit-sharing for farmers

In addition to the fundamental requirements listed by CCPs, our approach clearly outlines that 80% of sales revenue of carbon credits must flow back to smallholder farmers. In addition, our external certifier, Plan Vivo, also requires that at least 60% must directly benefit project participants and other local stakeholders. To our understanding, this has not been seen in any other carbon standards in the voluntary carbon market. 

2. No resale of Acorn CRUs

We find this especially important to safeguard the share of the revenue that smallholder farmers receive. Any middlemen would always be taking a share of the money that would otherwise go to the farmer, which is something we want to prevent — so, Acorn CRUs cannot be resold.

3. Assistance in the certification process

The certification process is complicated, takes time and money, and can be prohibitive to smaller local partners. With our focus on smallholder farmers, together with our external certifier Plan Vivo who also has a strong focus on community engagement, Acorn assists our projects hand in hand not only during the certification process but also throughout the entire project period, in order to maximize the benefits for smallholder farmers.

What’s next for the CCPs?

The first carbon credits to receive the CCP label will possibly be issued in early 2024, and the market has in general a positive attitude towards the release of Core Carbon Principles, hoping that it can increase the transparency and integrity of the carbon credits in the VCM.

From Acorn’s point of view, the CCPs are a great tool, especially as the first of its kind. However, we find that some of the criteria still require further clarification and best practices demonstration for the voluntary carbon market to adhere to.

As a result, the IC-VCM is calling for experts to join Multi-Stakeholder Working Groups and Continuous Improvement Work Programs to support and enhance the Assessment Framework. For more information, you can visit the ICVCM website.

About Acorn

We help support smallholder farmers in developing countries transition to agroforestry. Together with local partners, we facilitate the funding and training needed by farmers to start their agroforestry transition. Transforming the sequestered CO2 through agroforestry into Carbon Removal Units (CRUs), we offer carbon credits to responsible corporates to help them reach their climate goals. The growth of the trees is measured with satellite imagery, AI and LiDAR, and certified by ICROA-accredited Plan Vivo.

With 80% of the sales revenue going directly to the farmers, it creates an additional income stream and helps them adopt a more climate-resilient way of farming that improves food security, biodiversity, and financial independence.

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Yunchung KuoCarbon policy & market development specialistLinkedIn
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