Administration Unveils Principles for Carbon Offset Markets

The Biden administration on Tuesday released principles to enhance the integrity and effectiveness of voluntary carbon markets (VCMs) and incentivize companies to prioritize reducing their emissions. These principles can guide real estate businesses that seek to offset greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. (White House fact sheet, May 28)

All-of-Government Approach

  • The principles and joint policy statement were signed by the Treasury, Energy and Agriculture Secretaries, and White House officials directing national economic and climate policy.
  • VCMs can “channel a significant amount of private capital to support the energy transition and combat climate change, with the right incentives and guard rails in place,” they wrote
  • Markets that provide credits for greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation are crucial for meeting the administration’s climate goals to cut emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

Focus on Market Integrity

  • The principles support carbon markets based on independently verified emissions savings. “[S]takeholders must be certain that one credit truly represents one tonne of carbon dioxide (or its equivalent) reduced or removed from the atmosphere.”
  • The principles reflect the U.S.’s intentions to play a leadership role in standardizing international carbon markets.
  • Today, VCMs are around $2 billion annually. With the potential of more private capital into climate projects through VCMs, Morgan Stanley projected that the voluntary market could grow to $100 billion by 2030. (Axios, May 28)

Relevance for CRE

  • Companies may finance GHG mitigation projects such as reforestation, carbon capture, and increasing renewable energy supplies. (WSJ, May 28)
  • These tools can help real estate and other companies offset their Scope 1 “direct” emissions, as well as controversial Scope 3 emissions from supply chain sources.
  • “Concerns about the credible use of credits (for example, to address a portion of Scope 3 emissions) must also be adequately addressed for VCMs to truly drive decarbonization.” (Joint Policy Statement, May 28)
  • Specific instruments known as Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are commonly used in U.S. markets to address Scope 2 emissions, which are generated by power plants for the electricity used by tenants and other building occupants. (US-EPA, “Offsets and RECs – What’s the Difference?”)

The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) continues to work closely with the White House on climate initiatives impacting commercial real estate.