Delivering sustainability through marketplace technology | NovaFori x Arabian Business

Delivering sustainability through marketplace technology | NovaFori x Arabian Business

Paul MacGregor discusses with Arabian Business about transparency and scalability as the two key features of an offset marketplace that should resonate with both users and investors.

NovaFori Head of Sales and marketing, Paul MacGregor, walks through the key elements that unlock marketplace potential and opportunities of marketplace technology to achieve success.

Paul MacGregor, Head of Sales and Marketing at NovaFori.

 

Carbon credit markets must urgently deliver the transparency and scalability that will dispel doubts about their viability as a genuine counterweight to climate change. These features will be key to any offset marketplace aiming to attract buy-in from both users and investors.

With such potential as a high-impact and commercially viable solution to fighting the climate crisis, the voluntary carbon trading market has grown significantly in recent years, topping $1bn in 2021.

Nevertheless, concerns about the sourcing and pricing of carbon credits have proven resilient, as have comments alluding to ‘greenwashing.’ To help drive widespread adoption, new marketplaces must assuage these concerns and equip themselves to take on the surge in demand for corporates worldwide to achieve their sustainability goals and drive towards decarbonisation.

Introducing transparency

A truly transparent carbon marketplace would alleviate many of the concerns directed at its peers and erode the resultant hesitancy around offsets, making them a long-term viable means of combating climate change.

Some critics have questioned the integrity of the carbon trading market due to, often unfairly, ambiguous quality of many credits. Accusations of greenwashing are rife, as they call for more transparency in how credits are sourced and priced. Neither should be dismissed out of hand. But what the newest, most innovative carbon marketplaces can now do is provide the transparency that can prove the quality of credits.

In Singapore, for instance, a consortium of large corporate investors – including Standard Chartered, DBS, Temasek, and the Singapore Exchange (SGX) – has commissioned a carbon trading marketplace called Climate Impact X (CIX). Developed by NovaFori and launched earlier this year, CIX’s Project Marketplace currently consists of a digital platform on which businesses can buy and sell high-quality credits.

CIX’s Project Marketplace currently consists of a digital platform on which businesses can buy and sell high-quality credits

So, how does CIX ensure the quality of the traded credits on its platform? Well, it doesn’t. Verification is carried out by the world’s largest standards company, US-based Verra, which runs Verified Carbon Standard(VCS) projects, including forest conversation, wetland restoration, and agricultural land management. With just under 1,600 registered projects globally generating more than 450 million credits, Verra is a trusted third-party provider of verified carbon offsets.

Integration with Verra has been crucial for nurturing businesses’ confidence in the offsets available on CIX’s Project Marketplace, including how they are sourced and how they are priced. Once a project, such as a reforestation initiative, is bought and retired, it is digitally fenced off so no one else can purchase it. And in the event of a forest fire or other such disaster, insurance is provided by Verra, with the cost of credits refunded.

All of this is entirely transparent, so the environmental and monetary value of the credits can be easily assessed. CIX, therefore, provides a blueprint for carbon marketplaces looking to drive demand for quality offsets, allowing them to fulfil their potential for environmental good.

Ensuring scalability

Augmenting demand for carbon offsets, of course, gives rise to a secondary issue: how best to ensure that the market maintains the level of liquidity needed to satisfy businesses’ appetites. With dramatic increases in demand forecast to continue over the next decade, new, scalable marketplaces will be vital for sustaining the market’s rapid growth.

Demand for credits will increase as increasing numbers of businesses commit to being environmentally responsible organisations. Rather than focusing solely on the period right before annual reports are published, buying activity will be spread more evenly throughout the financial year as they shift to a project-based approach. Indeed, projects such as copper mining and aluminium smelting, both necessary for producing renewables, will increasingly offset their emissions as they begin work, rather than waiting until year-end.

As it stands, the market lacks the liquidity to satisfy this exponentially growing trading volume. It is currently a supply-driven market, as there is a limited amount of verifiable nature out there that you can genuinely claim is offsetting carbon emissions. This makes for a competitive market. Nevertheless, demand from the voluntary carbon market is set to grow. This raises the risk of growing pains and an opportunity for scalable marketplaces to thrive.

Delivering sustainability

Scalable platforms such as CIX will be critical for matching buyers of carbon credits to the right products at the right time, especially as increasing numbers of potential buyers flood the market. Moreover, unlocking the potential of this pent-up demand requires transparent, trustworthy marketplaces in which the environmental value of offsets can be verified independently.

There is a real opportunity for global carbon markets to follow examples such as CIX and equip businesses properly to offset their emissions. This cannot happen too soon, with deadlines for essential net zero targets getting ever closer, but the good news is that the technology to realise the full potential of carbon trading is now within reach.

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