Blockchain and Smart Contracts to Improve Voluntary Carbon Markets

It can no longer be avoided or denied — carbon markets are migrating to the blockchain. Both compliance-driven and voluntary-based markets are approaching a combined trillion dollar valuation and this figure is expected to grow significantly as ‘Net Zero by 2050’ commitments are enforced and executed around the world.

DeepMarkit Corp. (TSXV: MKT) is an early mover in the space and has developed the platform to facilitate the transition of carbon markets to the blockchain.

Key to DeepMarkit’s mission is the building of a revenue model that not only rewards shareholders but also empowers emissions-reducing project originators and carbon credit holders.

This is accomplished through our proprietary smart contract (or non-fungible token, more commonly know as an NFT), which triggers the generation of a shared royalty every time an NFT that was minted via the platform is bought and sold on any decentralized exchange in the world.

Below, we feature part of an article published by Coin Telegraph that outlines the importance of integrity, transparency and price discovery in carbon markets.

DeepMarkit anticipates holding the official launch of the platform in the near future and is look forward to the next phase of its business plan — the onboarding of carbon credits to the blockchain.

The aforementioned article can be read in its entirety here:

Green finance needs voluntary carbon markets that work

Carbon markets turn CO2 emissions into a commodity or tradable asset by giving it a price. Blockchain and smart contracts will improve those markets.

Small companies and individuals can only access the voluntary carbon market, where they buy credits at their own discretion to offset emissions from a specific activity. Voluntary credits usually cannot be traded under the compliance market regime. Voluntary carbon markets are expected to grow 15-fold by 2030 to respond to increased private sector demand for climate solutions, according to the “Taskforce for Scaling the Voluntary Carbon Market Final Report January 2021.” A significant problem with VCMs is that carbon credit prices have been low. The low costs of voluntary credits at $2–$3 per credit neither motivate nor incentivize project developers and do little to capture the true cost of climate pollution as compared to the compliance markets.

Related: The pandemic year ends with a tokenized carbon cap-and-trade solution

An excellent article for understanding VCM is “The Good Is Never Perfect: Why the Current Flaws of Voluntary Carbon Markets Are Services, Not Barriers to Successful Climate Change Action.” In this article, Oliver Miltenberger, Christophe Jospe and James Pittman highlight key issues around the design, function and the scale-up of VCMs.

Greenwashing. This happens when companies with false energy efficiencies claim to be more environmentally friendly than they really are, and thus high rates of ineffective credits are used to offset corporate emissions.

Carbon accounting. The number of claims for offsetting emissions is unrealistic, given ecosystem constraints. Net-zero ambitions should have disclosure requirements and be audited. Double-counting can happen intentionally but also occurs due to a lack of complete accounting protocols and a lack of alignment between market jurisdictions or operators.

Market failures and inefficiencies. One major critique emphasizes the risk to unfairly burden product and service markets with compliance costs, and there are few incentives for businesses that voluntarily take action to mitigate an environmental impact.

Monitoring, reporting and verifying. The costs of these activities can constitute the majority of the market value of a carbon credit, reducing the incentive for implementation.

Additionality and baselines. Carbon removal projects utilize inherently subjective baselines.

Permanence. This refers to the assurance that carbon will remain in a stock for an extended period of time, usually 30–100 years. However, there is an opportunity to protect and expand carbon sinks, incentivize low carbon production, and increase the flow of carbon from the atmosphere to short-term and durable stock, even in cases with shorter-term permanence.

Stakeholder inclusion and inequity. Projects can disenfranchise local livelihoods. In some early REDD + projects, the financialized carbon benefits resulted in local communities having restricted access to their traditional land and livelihoods.

These can help with: standardized accounting protocols for interoperability across accounting scales and systems; greater transparency from VCM operators and credit purchasers; standalone certifications on rights and ownership of credits; improved traceability. Traceability, liquidity and smart contracts allow carbon credits to be used in innovative ways, creating additional demand in the overall VCM.

Related: How blockchain technology is transforming climate action

When combined with remotely sensed data via satellite imagery, drones, laser-detecting devices and Internet-of-Things devices with machine learning and artificial intelligence, analytics can decrease development costs and increase rigor in measurement. Southpole pointed out:

“Blockchain technology has enormous potential for climate action. This is only the case, however, when the right safeguards are in place to ensure environmental integrity. Web3 applications can be part of the climate solution, but they have to be designed and applied in the right way.”

While the potential exists, we need action to rectify the problems in VCM, including:

  • Strengthening the incentives for decarbonization
  • Pricing carbon is urgently needed with improved price transparency
  • Reducing the cost of carbon credit creation
  • Reducing transaction costs and providing additional liquidity
  • Making the prices in the spot and futures market higher and more reliable
  • Building carbon credits as a viable asset class by providing predictable returns on investment and including value protection for buyers and sellers
  • Creating safeguards to protect reputation and legal processes for disputes settlement
  • Clarity on taxation exemption of carbon credits, moving from “polluter pays” to “polluter invests” and full price discovery goes to the green owners on the ground taking direct climate action on their behalf.

Kishore Butani of the Universal Carbon Registry in India pointed out, “Merely taking carbon credits on-chain does nothing for price discovery. It’s worse when the broker and middleman buy cheap and create tokens as we’re seeing currently, totally cutting off the project owner in the ground. What’s needed is not an NFT [nonfungible token] from the buy-side of the carbon market, but integration directly with carbon repositories that help rural developers and green project owners create the carbon NFTs.” He also added:

“Can we learn from Bitcoin and price all mining years equally and make the entry into the VCM affordable to the rural poor in developing countries and stop diverting carbon finance to projects in Annex 1 countries? These countries are obligated to go green, my India isn’t.”

VCM are an essential means to catalyze action but need major improvements to fulfill that role.

This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.