Beginners Guide to JCR
Most people understand the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but few understand the carbon market in all its opacity. It’s helpful to understand how it works before recognizing how it needs to evolve.
This beginners’ guide will use simple and clear language to demystify the carbon offsetting industry, show how JustCarbon’s platform functions and reveal how it will address the factors that have been holding the market back.
Firstly, it’s important to explain the existing business model behind the carbon offsetting industry. Carbon offsetting is the commercialization of any activity that either avoids/reduces CO2 emissions or removes past emissions from the atmosphere.
Typically, these activities are completed by verified ‘project developers’, then sold as carbon credits, with one carbon credit normally representing a tonne of CO2 being reduced or removed from the atmosphere.
These credits are purchased by companies – and sometimes governments and members of the public – to help them achieve carbon neutrality (offsetting the same amount of carbon they emit) or carbon negativity (offsetting more carbon than they emit).
Not all offsets are the same and many non-verified credits are sold in the market. However, the following is a typical step-by-step journey of the current carbon offset industry:
- 1.A Project Developer develops a ‘methodology’ i.e. an activity that reduces or removes atmospheric CO2 through some kind of action, intervention, or protection.
- 2.The Project Developer needs to show that the emissions reduction wouldn’t have happened anyway if the activity hadn’t taken place, known as 'additionality'.
- 3.They also need to prove that their method avoids or removes more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits.
- 4.Once they’ve been through this process, they get their methodology approved by a ‘Verifier’, an independent organization that approves the methodology, such as The Gold Standard or Verra.
- 5.The Project Developer is given an agreed number of credits they can sell in any given year, typically 60% of the expected annual output with a 40% buffer in case something goes wrong.
- 6.The Project Developer then sells these credits to the market, normally through a retailer or a broker that often charges upwards of 30% markup plus fees.
- 7.The intermediary promotes the credits based on both the weight of CO2 and any ‘co-benefits’, such as whether the project also enhanced biodiversity, created jobs, distributed wealth, etc.
- 8.Once sold, the credits are then listed on a ‘registry’, a platform that holds all the carbon credit origination and ownership data.
- 9.There they remain until such time as the current owner elects to ‘retire’ the credit from the registry, i.e. to permanently account for the offset in their own records. Registries usually charge a small fee for the relatively manual process of retiring a credit.
- 10.The Project Developer undertakes an independent audit with another organization to confirm they achieved what they set out to and, in the subsequent year, the amount they can sell is adjusted accordingly.
- 11.The Project Developer reinvests their profits from the previous year/season and the process repeats.
The carbon offsetting process seems to be pretty established. So why does JustCarbon need to exist? And how does our process differ from these existing practices?
Firstly, whilst the market is only two decades old, it’s surprisingly low-tech. Verification is completed manually, credits are bought and sold over the phone, and registries are nothing fancier than basic databases.
Secondly, too much emphasis has been placed on the co-benefits, which are the enemy of liquidity. Of course, the co-benefits are important, but if the market was more liquid they would benefit more people and at a greater scale anyway.
Currently, the people who benefit the most from selling based on co-benefits are the brokers and retailers, not the Project Developers, since the process of matching buyers and sellers is much more manual and, therefore, expensive. This means fewer funds are reinvested back into more climate action.
Thirdly, there’s no agreed price for carbon credits. Since the market is illiquid, manual, and localized, the price varies wildly depending on where you buy from.
Lastly, buyers find it difficult to enter the market. They want to support climate action and offset their emissions, but a Google search (where most start) will just take you to the website of a broker or a retailer.
We have identified that the market wants certainty, ease, and speed, which a tokenized marketplace allows for. JustCarbon has been built to resolve all these issues in an easy-to-use platform backed by a highly robust blockchain.
- 1.Anyone who has an offset they wish to turn into a JustCarbon Retirement Unit (JCR), be they a Project Developer, a broker/retailer, or a previous buyer whose circumstances have changed, applies to list their inventory on our platform.
- 3.A JCR is minted for each verified metric tonne that the seller lists.
- 4.If the offset exists as a carbon credit in the existing market, the credit is migrated from the registry, so the only place it now physically exists is on JustCarbon’s secure blockchain as a JCR.
- 5.The owner then either sells their JCR, trades them on a reputable exchange, or burns (retires) them to offset their emissions. The JustCarbon platform also includes a simple ‘buy and burn’ feature for anyone who wants to easily offset their carbon footprint without using an exchange.
- 6.An Automated Market Maker (AMM) will dictate the price at any given time, which will allow any exchange to list with a globally accepted, homogenous value.
- 7.New owners can either store their JCRs, bridge them to a chain of choice to store in their own wallet, trade/exchange on their preferred exchange, or ‘burn’ them to offset their emissions.
In many respects, JustCarbon is turning authenticated CO2 removal into an asset or a commodity. In fact, you will physically own the underlying asset of the removed tonne of carbon by holding the only real-world manifestation of it, which is the JCR.
This approach also leads to fair pricing, with all sellers benefiting from price certainty, including the Project Developers, meaning more money being reinvested back into further climate action.
Mark Carney’s Taskforce for Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets has highlighted that the price needs to grow to $120 a tonne (up from as little as $8 today) to stimulate production to necessary levels. In that sense, traders and speculators betting on this price rise will help the market in the short term, which will in turn encourage more Project Developers to enter the market.
Although the industry doesn’t define them as such, there is a clear distinction between avoidance/reduction and removal. A good analogy to understand the difference is a sinking boat.
To stop a boat from sinking, you need to plug the holes as quickly as you bail the water. If too much water gets in, both the increased weight of the boat and the potential that it leaks through portals, davits then eventually over the side means the boat reaches crucial tipping points and sinks. And even when the holes are plugged in, you still need to get rid of the water.
However, you can bail the water at the same speed as it’s coming in and theoretically keep it afloat, or indeed bail faster than the leak by using pumps.
Many people have spent the last two decades attempting to only plug the holes, whilst the issue has been getting significantly worse. So for us, removing the CO2 that persists in the atmosphere is our biggest priority because a) too few people are focussing on it and b) the potential for removal is much greater than the potential for reductions.
This is our first point of difference as a platform, the fact that we will define exactly what CO2 removal involves and make it easier for the market to buy removals specifically.
The problem generally with carbon offsets is that it’s hard to measure carbon emissions, reductions, and removal. There are so many factors at play and many of them are subjective. As science improves, so does our awareness of, for example, the dangers of monoculture, the importance of biodiversity, and how the global carbon cycle interacts with local carbon cycles. As such, older vintages often don’t meet the standards of today.
Also, verifiers adhere to different quality standards. As public interest in the industry grows, so will scrutiny from the media and commentators. Hence why JustCarbon has been developed partly by one of the founders of one of the major verifiers, Adrian Rimmer, former CEO of The Gold Standard.
To maintain quality and integrity, JustCarbon’s initial liquidity pool of JCRs will only be sourced from VCS (Verra) and Gold Standard credits, created within the past 6 years, and only if they are nature-based CO2 removal. We will consistently review our criteria and over time will potentially introduce technological solutions like Direct Air Capture, or geological solutions such as ocean alkalinity enhancement, if our community votes to include them.
Whilst the existing carbon market has achieved a lot to create a solid foundation for addressing the climate emergency, it was built in a piecemeal way and not designed for scale.
JustCarbon will make the carbon market fit for the future, and ensure that it’s accessible for all.