By Bernie Woodall
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Climate Action Reserve, officially launched on Monday, seeks to provide more certainty, clarity and transparency to a sometimes opaque voluntary carbon reduction market in the United States.
The Climate Action Reserve offers a seal of approval for legitimate carbon reduction projects, said Gary Gero, president of the California Climate Registry.
The Climate Action Reserve is a division of the nonprofit California Climate Action Registry, and is expected to be financed by registration and other fees to the public and private entities that use its services.
"The (Climate Action) Reserve is a very important step in the United States. It puts together real, qualified standards for those projects even though (the reserve) is very small now," said Marc Stuart, California-based founder of what has become Britain-based EcoSecurities Group Plc, one of the world's biggest developers of carbon offsets.
The reserve now has only two projects it has verified -- both forest projects that are partially funded through purchased carbon offsets.
Gero said the reserve expects to have 20 or so projects that meet its standards within a year; 50 to 100 new ones in its second year; and hundreds of new projects representing millions of tons of carbon reduction tons, or CRTs, in its third year of existence.
"At this juncture, it's buyer beware," said Stuart. "Clearly, what the reserve is doing is by far the most credible thing we've seen in the United States," Stuart said.
Gero said the reserve seeks to give certainty to consumers and institutions wanting to enter the voluntary carbon market.
"There is a voluntary but huge emerging market with people throwing money at it," said Gero.
Companies fear buying offsets and carbon credits in projects that make claims that may not measure up to the rigor of U.S. federal standards once those regulations are set, which many see an inevitability.
Ken Newcombe, head of the carbon desk at Goldman Sachs, said, "We are enthusiastic about the work the reserve is doing because it provides increased certainty about investing in this sector."
The Climate Action Reserve has designed and will continue to design standardized protocols for carbon-reducing projects. It will attempt to set standards for hundreds of types of projects. Rather than create project-by-project standards, it will set them by sectors.
An example of a sector would be methane-cutting projects related to cattle, or carbon-cutting protocols for landfills.
A third party will verify each project's integrity, and ownership of each project will be transparent, Gero said.
Every carbon reduction ton (CRT) -- the already established international standard for measuring carbon emission reductions -- for each project will be given a unique tracking number which is designed to assure that it is not sold twice and is retired.
Nancy Whalen, spokeswoman for the California Climate Registry and the new reserve, said details of each project will be offered on its Web site climateregistry.org/offsets.
(Editing by Christian Wiessner)