Talks of Covid-19’s impact on carbon offset demand and price has been on the forefront of carbon market conversation. Fortunately, offset projects are not directly impacted by Covid-19; trees and grasses cannot catch the novel coronavirus. Food is obviously essential so organic waste will continue to be generated giving biogas projects a steady supply of feedstock that can be converted to biogas, which when combusted reduces emissions. The indirect impacts Covid-19 could have on project offset supply could create large delays or lapses in issuing offsets. It is important to steadfastly move forward to avoid this lapse and continue to generate environmental benefits.
Significant delay to offset issuance could result from delayed verification site visits. During many reporting years, a site visit is required to receive offsets. However, on some years many project sectors allow for desk-top verification. Registries should begin considering options for virtual site visits using existing and new mediums for virtual communication. Because of the unknown length or challenges of Covid-19 restrictions, these should be prepared well in advance of their anticipate need.
The carbon offset registries are also considering Covid-19’s impact on reporting period deadlines. If there are hold ups, such a delayed site visits, it may be difficult to finish verification within given reporting timeframe. The Climate Action Reserve is allowing programmatic deadlines to extend by 6 months – if the extension reason is directly Covid-19 related.
Delays to completing verification could be most difficult for ARB Forestry projects. ARB forestry projects verification must be completed and ARB approved within 13 months of the first reporting period ending. During verification site visit is required to take a subsample of an inventory, this process alone takes 1-3 weeks. If the site visit is delayed for months this could significantly impact the ability to receive registry and ARB approval within the 13-month time frame. Covid-19 related delays are stacked on top of other considerations for forestry site visits, such as the time of year and inventory cruise availability, that already causes delays.
To assist developers in continuing to move projects forward the registries should continue to consider flexibility in the verification process that upholds offset integrity. Demand for offsets will continue and to avoid a back log of work for verifiers, developers and registries it is important we work together to make our work from home time as efficient as possible. The current situation presents challenges without precedent, and a little flexibility and creative could help insure the strength of future carbon offset markets