Our response to research from UC Berkeley

Our response to research from UC Berkeley

In de media
05 Feb 2024

Following a recently published study by UC Berkeley in Nature Sustainability: “Pervasive over-crediting from cookstove offset methodologies” (1), it appears that there is criticism of methodologies that quantify CO₂ emissions from cookstove projects.

Cookstove projects have a wide diversity of types of cookstoves, project design, local guidance and monitoring that influence effectiveness. However, according to research by UC Berkeley, the standards give too much leeway, meaning that the climate benefits can be overestimated by 1.5 to 10 times. In addition to criticism, it simultaneously emphasizes the importance of these projects and provides recommendations for project developers and methodologies to do better (2). Two of the five projects that are doing well according to the research are a project by BioMassters and FairClimateFund in Rwanda and an electric cooking project by ATEC in Bangladesh with which FairClimateFund also collaborates.

Vision of FairClimateFund

FairClimateFund has been committed to a fair voluntary CO₂ market for years that benefits people in the most fragile regions of the world. As far as we are concerned, developing cookstove projects is a human job. Vulnerable families with very low incomes in developing countries are shown the benefits of a new way of cooking and invited to participate. This produces carbon credits. By paying a fair price for these credits, families can not only finance the cookstove, but also invest in climate adaptation measures and the necessary capacity building for a sustainable transition in the local community. At FairClimateFund we not only ensure that this fair price is paid, but we also always ensure that our climate projects meet the best international carbon standards, such as the Gold Standard quality mark and the Fairtrade Climate Standard (4). With the Fairtrade Climate Standard, local communities own the CO₂ credits and receive a fair price from their sale.

Response from Gold Standard

And now the UC Berkeley study concludes that the most important and highly regarded standard ‘Gold Standard’ could enable overclaiming. This means that within the methodologies there are options to claim more credits than have actually been reduced. We are shocked by this finding. Gold Standard itself notes that there are significant shortcomings in the research and that conclusions are inconsistent with the wider academic literature and expert views on clean cooking (3). At the same time, Gold Standard indicates that it is continuously working to optimize processes and methodologies to guarantee the best and most efficient impact measurement.

More than CO₂ reduction

At FairClimateFund we have been advocating for more transparency in the market for years and that is important if we want to guarantee that CO₂ compensation projects offer real, permanent and additional CO₂ reduction. We therefore applaud the pursuit of effectiveness of climate mitigation projects through research. However, in addition to the measurement methods of CO₂ reduction, there are: also other factors that determine lasting success. These projects not only aim to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the projects must also contribute to sustainable development. An assessment of the quality of a project therefore concerns both parts, but the assessment can have different outcomes. The criticism here concerns the quantification of the emission reductions. A ton of CO₂ must demonstrably be a ton. That is a valid point, but it says nothing about the contribution to sustainable development.

To ensure the integrity of CO₂ reduction, we use the Gold Standard Metered & Measured Methodology in our new projects where possible. This methodology emerged as the most reliable from the research. For projects registered under the more criticized Gold Standard Simplified Methodology, we will apply a Baseline and Project Fuel Test (KPT or Kitchen Performance Test) to re-assess baseline reliability and fuel consumption, even if this is not required by the methodology.

Climate finance for the most vulnerable

Finally, we would like to emphasize that climate finance is desperately needed for people who are most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. The voluntary CO₂ market can make an important contribution to this provided that a fair price is paid for CO₂ reduction and this income actually reaches local communities. This also includes a fair premium for climate adaptation and financing of the multi-year transition in those communities. Stopping investments in sustainable climate projects is therefore not an option as far as we are concerned. The problem surrounding cooking and climate change is far too big. Only together can we work towards a better and fairer climate for all of us!

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(1) Nature Sustainability: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-023-01259-6

(2) UC Berkeley: https://gspp.berkeley.edu/research-and-impact/centers/cepp/projects/berkeley-carbon-trading-project/cookstoves/guidance-for-cookstove-offset-buyers

(3) Gold Standard: https://www.goldstandard.org/blog-item/gold-standard’s-response-allegations-over-crediting-clean-cooking-methodologies

(4) Fairtrade Climate Standard: https://www.fairtrade.net/standard/climate