Voluntary Offset Standard

The Voluntary Offset Standard (VOS) is a carbon offset screen that accepts other standards and methodologies using certain screening criteria. It currently accepts Gold Standards VER projects and projects that employ CDM procedures but which are implemented in countries that have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol and are therefore not eligible for Clean Development Mechanism.

History of Standard
The International Carbon Investors and Services (INCIS) launched the Voluntary Offset Standard in June 2007. INCIS is a not-for-profit association of large investment companies that provide carbon-related investments and services. INCIS has 26members (as of November 2007).

Administrative Bodies
Since the VOS is a new standard, many of its administrative structures are not yet in place.

Members: INCIS was initially set up as the “European Carbon Investors and Services" but has since its launch expanded to represent the interests of 26 members based both within and outside of Europe. These include, among others, ABN AMRO, Baker & McKenzie, Barclays Capital, Climate Change Capital, Credit Suisse, Deutsche
Bank, Fortis, ING, MGM International, Morgan Stanley, and Standard Bank.

Auditors: UNFCCC approved DOEs verify and approve projects.

Financing of the Standard Organisation
The VOS is financed through INCIS membership fees and will further be financed through the issuance fees once its registry is established.

Recognition of Other Standards
The VOS accepts credits from CDM, JI, and Gold Standard CER and VER projects. Other VER standards (or specific methodologies approved under these additional standards) may be recognised under the VOS in the future by INCIS.

Number of Projects
No information is available: the VOS relies upon DOE certification so there will be no central entity to collect VOS project numbers until a registry is established.

Comments on VOS
The VOS standard screen is supported by many of the heavy weights in the financial industry. This is an indication that these financial players are concerned about the risk they are taking by trading VERs from an unregulated market. Because of the support by these powerful financial players, the VOS could potentially play an important role.
Yet currently the VOS seems somewhat vague. It is difficult to get any specific information about the VOS. There is little information available on the website or in printed materials. Currently the VOS only accepts VERs from projects implemented using CDM methodologies and Gold Standard offsets. In terms of VER projects implemented using CDM methodologies, the VOS is similar to the VER+, yet has fewer defined organisational structures and procedures. It is still unclear how
the decision making structures for approval of methodologies or other standards will look. For these reasons, it is unclear how important a role the VOS will play in thevoluntary offset market.


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.

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