VER Plus

Overview

The VER Plus (VER+) is a full-fledged carbon offset standard and closely follows the Kyoto Protocol’s project-based mechanisms (CDM and JI). It does not focus on cobenefits.

History of Standard

The VER+ standard was developed by TÜV SÜD, a Designated Operational Entity (DOE) for the validation and verification of CDM projects. It was designed for project developers who have projects that cannot be implemented under CDM yet who want to use very similar procedures as the CDM. The VER Plus was launched in mid 2007.

Administrative Bodies

TÜV SÜD certification body “climate and energy” has four members who supervise and administer the VER+ standard’s criteria. The same body also reviews all the CDM projects that TÜV SÜD audits as a DOE before the documents are submitted to the CDM EB.

Third Party Auditors are CDM and JI accredited auditors. They are approved to validate and verify projects. In the validation and verification process, the auditing company is obliged to follow the requirements as defined by the Validation and Verification Manual (initially published by World bank / IETA), in its most recent version. Unlike under CDM, accredited third party auditors can validate and verify the same project.

Financing of the Standard Organisation

The VER+ is financed by funds from TÜV SÜD and by issuance fees for use of the registry.

Recognition of Other Standards

If a project that has been initially implemented under another standard seeks VER+ certification, a so called “equivalence check” is carried out. Based on validation
and verification reports, the auditor in charge confirms that the already audited project also complies with VER+ requirements.

Number of Projects

At the end of 2007 there were approximately 25 validated projects and several verifications were taking place. The demand for VER Plus is growing, especially
among project developers in China and for CDM preregistration credits.

Comments on the VER+

No Separation of Verification and Approval of Projects
TÜV SÜD has a good reputation as a DOE and is a well-know auditor. We are nevertheless concerned about potential conflicts of interest. Currently, most VER+ projects are validated and verified in house, since both the certification body and the auditor are in this case TÜV SÜD, it is difficult to know if project approval will always be strictly independent.

Projects are validated, verified and approved by the same DOE. Even with TÜV SÜD’s best intentions, given the pressures DOEs are currently facing to do very fast and low cost evaluations, the possible conflict of interest is real.* Yet, since the standard is very new and few projects have been implemented it remains to be seen if these concerns prove to be valid.

Double Counting
The VER+ standard allows projects in any country. For Annex 1 countries they stipulate that the corresponding amount of AAUs are retired or that the generated VER+ credits are not to be transferred out of the country. The first provision avoids double counting but it is difficult to  see how VERs used within the country avoids double counting. The authors of this report see the second alternative as insufficient to avoid double counting.

Future of VER+

There are several reasons why project developers might choose VER Plus over CDM. In comparison to CDM, VER+ provides more flexibility on methodologies, which speeds up validation and verification. A project specific approach as defined for JI can be used for those project settings where a CDM approved methodology is not available or fully applicable. The fees for the incorporation of VER+ credits to the Blue Registry are usually lower than those covered by UNFCCC for registration and issuance of CDM projects.

Given the proliferation of standards, it remains to be seen how well the VER+ will be able to establish itself. Although TÜV SÜD is well respected in the industry, the VER+ was developed by a single DOE and does not have the wide NGO or industry-based support that the Gold Standard and the VCS have. It is therefore unclear how widely the VER+ will be used.

Source: WWF Germany, March 2008, Making Sense of the Voluntary Carbon Market: A Comparison of Carbon Offset Standards, Anja Kollmuss (SEI-US), Helge Zink (Tricorona), Clifford Polycarp (SEI-US). Full report is available as a PDF here.