THIRD-PARTY EVALUATION OF CARBON CREDITING STANDARDS FOR ENDORSEMENT BY ICROA
Request for Proposals – May 2022
1. Purpose of this Request For Proposals (RFP)
The International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance (ICROA) manages a Code of Best Practice that aims to define international best practice for carbon management services. It represents the minimum requirements that ICROA-accredited service providers must meet, including how they source carbon credits for offsetting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. ICROA currently conducts internal evaluations of carbon crediting standards that may become accepted into the ICROA Code. The purpose of this RFP is to outsource this evaluation process to improve its efficiency.
2. About ICROA
Founded in 2008, ICROA represents the interests of service providers in promoting science-aligned GHG emission reductions and offsetting of residual emissions to the highest standards of environmental integrity, in support of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement goals. ICROA provides an Accreditation Program and supports organizations through advocacy and action-oriented activities aimed at advancing best practice in the voluntary carbon market (VCM). ICROA is a non-profit initiative housed within the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA).
Our mission is to enable climate leadership for corporates and governments by developing and advancing best practices in emission reductions and offsetting ahead of and beyond regulation. We are guided by the science of climate change, the need for economy-wide decarbonization to reach net zero by 2050 and we believe in the critical need for carbon finance to enable urgent climate action. We advocate for offsetting as a valuable complement to Paris-aligned reduction pathways and we believe that proactive efforts by corporates to finance emission reductions and removals through the VCM should be recognized and rewarded.
3. The ICROA Code of Best Practice
The ICROA Code of Best Practice (The Code) aims to define international best practice for offset-inclusive carbon management and represents the minimum requirements that all ICROA-accredited organizations must meet. The ICROA Code is applicable to services provided by ICROA-accredited organizations, the list of which is available here.
The Code ensures that ICROA-accredited organizations and their clients undertake carbon management strategies that lead to ambitious and impactful climate action. The Code is structured as follows:
Section 1: Carbon management services
Section 2: Sourcing and use of carbon credits for offsetting
The ICROA Code evolves as the VCM develops to always encompass best practice. The current version is available here.
3.2 Accreditation Program, Annual Audit Process and Accreditation Label
The ICROA Accreditation Program defines and promotes best practice in GHG emission reductions and the use of carbon credits as an effective carbon management tool. The Program is open to all organizations that provide a carbon offsetting service, subject to eligibility criteria for their initial application. The Accreditation requires the successful completion of an annual third party audit to assure compliance with the ICROA Code. Organizations that successfully pass this audit each year may use the ICROA Accreditation Label.
3.3 Endorsed Carbon Crediting Standards
When ICROA-accredited organizations are offsetting, or contracting to offset GHG emissions on behalf of a client, they shall only use carbon credits sourced from projects that are validated, verified and registered under one of the nine carbon crediting standards (Standards) endorsed by ICROA:
UN and Government Standards
Emissions Reduction Fund of the Australian Government
UK Woodland Carbon Code
American Carbon Registry
Architecture for REDD+ Transactions (ART) The REDD+ Environmental Excellence Standard (TREES)
Climate Action Reserve
Global Carbon Council
Verified Carbon Standard (Verra)
4. Current Evaluation of Standards
New Standards can be proposed at any time to ICROA. They are accepted into the Code if they meet ICROA's evaluation criteria and are approved by ICROA’s Executive Committee. ICROA currently runs a Working Group which conducts a technical and policy evaluation of Standards periodically. This Working Group is made up of subject matter experts from accredited organizations. Participation in this Working Group is voluntary.
4.2 Evaluation Criteria
To evaluate any Standard, the Working Group applies specific criteria. A Standard that meets these criteria may then be officially endorsed by ICROA, i.e. be officially listed in the Code (see 3.3.).
The following list provides an overview of the current evaluation criteria. Any Standard that seeks ICROA endorsement needs to fill out a comprehensive evaluation template based on these criteria and provide evidence where needed.
The Standard is designed and managed by an independent organization or group of organizations.
The Standard has a robust governance process and is well managed in a transparent manner. For example, this includes:
Roles and responsibilities of the organization, management and staff that are responsible for the program, as well as the board/governing structure that oversees the organization.
Enforcement of rules to guard against conflict of interest by the board/governing body, management and staff.
Published grievance and redress mechanisms.
Public stakeholder consultation on the development of program rules and procedures; accounting methodologies; projects and governmental programs (in the case of jurisdictional crediting); ensuring stakeholder comments are transparently addressed.
The Standard is linked to a publicly accessible registry, available internationally and in the English language, independent of the carbon credit provider, that tracks issued, transferred and retired/cancelled credits to ensure uniqueness for each ton and with the basic functionality to:
Provide public access to all underlying project/program information, including program documentation, detailed calculations, audit/ verification/monitoring statements and reports and legal representations
Transparently tracks issuance, transfer and retirement / cancellation of units
Individually identify units through unique serial numbers that contain sufficient information to avoid double counting (type, geography, vintage), for example voluntary credits should not be claimed for reductions from a project where there have already been compliance credits issued for the same project, covering the same time period.
Identify unit status (issued, transferred, retired/cancelled)
Track and trace chain of custody, from creation to retirement/cancellation
Validation & Verification
The Standard requires that projects and emission reduction claims are clearly, transparently and independently validated and verified by suitably qualified, independent organizations. This also includes published provisions to assess and avoid conflicts of interest for accreditation and oversight of validation and verification bodies.
Key ICROA principles are met by the carbon credits issued under the Standard: Independently Verified, Unique, Real, Permanent, Additional, Measurable.
Environmental and Social Impacts
The Standard must have requirements to ensure that all projects and programs comprehensively address and mitigate all potential environmental and social risks:
Standards must have legal requirements regarding the avoidance of environmental and social impacts are fulfilled.
The ‘Do No Harm’ Principle is fulfilled regarding environmental and social impacts.
Consideration of Important Stakeholders
During the Standard’s development and public stakeholder consultations, industry stakeholders and local stakeholders are considered, highly linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (additional benefits beyond emission reductions or removals).
Innovative Approach and Market Share
The standard is innovative and has or could reasonably be expected to develop relevant market share for impact. ICROA gives preference to Standards that bring new and innovative qualities to the VCM, and discourages those that are minor variants of existing Standards to prevent Standard proliferation and market confusion. It is not the intent of ICROA to pick winners in the Standards space, and therefore Standards with significant global or regional market share may be selected. Delays with the Standard’s generation of carbon credits should be taken into consideration, when considering market share.
The evaluation process is simplified if the Standard if already approved by a UN organization or a Government.
ICROA also runs an annual dialogue with endorsed Standards to ensure that they continue to comply with the Code’s requirements.
5. Future Evaluation Process
As carbon markets worldwide become more widely adopted as an efficient tool to fight climate change, more and more Standards are emerging. Some of them are independent Standards, others are designed by national or sub-national jurisdictions. In this context of increased fragmentation, ICROA is regularly approached to evaluate new Standards that seek an endorsement. Limited resources in the ICROA Working Group responsible for evaluating these Standards is generating delays, while the list of applications is growing.
The purpose of this RFP is to outsource this evaluation process to be able to improve both speed and efficiency. The evaluation itself will continue to be based upon the criteria overseen by ICROA (see evaluation template and overview in 4.2.)
6. RFP Specifications
6.1 Elements of Proposal
Each Proposal will include the following elements:
Primary contact for this Proposal (name, email address).
An overview of the organization.
Track record and experience with the evaluation of GHG crediting standards and/or the validation and verification of VCM projects registered under an ICROA-endorsed standard. This should include the total number of project validations and verifications, including project types audited in different sectoral scopes (where sectoral scope is defined as per CDM).
Team structure – roles and responsibilities: who in the organization will perform the evaluations, and their experience and expertise.
The successful organization(s) will present formal recommendations to ICROA’s Technical Working Group. It is expected that these recommendations will be clearly substantiated based on the responses provided in the evaluation template (4.2.). Please indicate how you propose to run and improve the evaluation process. Each evaluation will be accessible in a dedicated application provided by ICROA.
Please include a quote for up to 5 evaluations per year, based on the time you anticipate will be needed. Note that each evaluation often necessitates bilateral meeting(s) with the Standard for any clarification requests (please provide a fixed price per evaluation, no hourly rate).
Declaration confirming that you are able to meet the availability, frequency and volume requirements described in 6.2.
6.2 Evaluation frequency and expected volume
A test evaluation will be conducted by the shortlisted organization(s) in June/July 2022. The Standard to be evaluated will be selected from the current pool of Standards that have approached ICROA.
Following this initial evaluation (and if satisfactory), it is then expected that evaluations will be conducted at set intervals (e.g. on a quarterly basis) to ensure timely feedback to the Standards.
Availability is required in the short term to conduct up to 5 evaluations between June and December 2022.
7. How to Respond to this RFP, timeline
Using the outline in 6.1., provide detailed responses to I.-VII. Only complete applications will be considered by ICROA. You may submit your Proposal as a Word or PDF document.
Please submit your Proposal to the ICROA Secretariat (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Tuesday 31 May 2022. ICROA will review each application in detail in June 2022 and select the successful third-party organization(s) soon thereafter. Feel free to contact us for any questions.
 As of May 2022.
 Further clarity is expected following the approval of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement at COP26.
 Although not part of the RFP specifications, this annual process may ultimately be managed by the selected organization(s) in the future. Similarly, the organization(s) could play a role in the annual third-part audit (appointment of several auditors) of ICROA-accredited organizations, mentioned in 3.2.