Over the last year, we have seen the emergence of a new carbon market based on the tokenisation of voluntary carbon credits. It represents a new, decentralised approach towards scaling up the carbon market, and it has seen very rapid growth since its inception.
The reasons for that growth are clear: it allows anyone with access to cryptocurrency software to instantly buy and sell tokenised carbon credits, without needing to hold an account in the underlying carbon credit program registry or undergo the usual KYC checks that come along with that. In that sense, it has the potential to unlock a huge segment of the carbon credit consumer market.
Like any new technology, it can be both a force for good and bad; the other side of the (digital) coin is that the proliferation of carbon credit-backed cryptocurrencies represents a threat to the integrity of the whole carbon market; it reality, a tokenised carbon credit is completely disconnected from the underlying carbon credit: it gives no right to the underlying credit, only a contractual right (as against the token issuer) to the environmental claims attached to it; and it is not controlled or backed by the carbon credit program provider. There is obvious scope for greenwashing and fraudulent schemes, which we have already seen happening.
It is clear that if the crypto carbon market is to have a future as a credible part of the wider carbon market, rather than as a marginal, high-risk product, it must be subject to controls to ensure that tokenised carbon credits possess the same fundamental attributes/qualities as the underlying carbon credits themselves, i.e. that the claimed carbon offsets must be real, additional, permanent, robustly quantified, independently verified, and uniquely claimed.