By Elba Horta, Co-Founder at Puro.earth
Carbon removal markets, like financial markets, fluctuate. The cost of removing one tonne of carbon from the atmosphere can go up and down – and thanks to the Carbon Removal Price Index family, launched by Nasdaq and Puro.earth earlier this year, we can now track these movements.
Here, we take a deeper look at the fortunes of the carbon removal markets and examine the trends which are starting to emerge.
What is a CORC?
The Carbon Removal Price Index family tracks CORCs – CO2 Removal Certificates. Puro.earth’s suppliers remove carbon from the atmosphere by developing carbon net-negative processes or products. These removals are then verified by an independent third party based on the Puro Standard and one CORC is issued per tonne equivalent of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. Companies wishing to help tackle the climate crisis then buy these CORCs to support their net zero claims. When a claim is made, the company retires the CORC in the Puro Registry, where it is made visible to the public to ensure these removals are not used against further claims in the future.
CORC Carbon Removal Price Indexes track the price of removing carbon from the atmosphere based on Puro Standard methodologies. There are different ways to do this so the CORC Carbon Removal Price Index family consists of a composite index, that tracks the price of all CORC transactions, as well as specific indexes for biochar and bio-based construction materials. As the volume of transactions from other methodologies of removing carbon from the atmosphere increase, more indexes will be added to the family, helping us understand emerging trends in the industry.
What are the current trends?
The general trend for all the indexes in the family is upward. CORC suppliers negotiate prices with buyers, taking into account multiple factors such as location and methodology used, to come to an agreement on how much CORCs are worth.
CORC prices across the indexes are rising and the CORC Biochar Price Index has risen particularly sharply. This tracks the price of sequestering one tonne of CO2 in the form of biochar, a charcoal-like substance that is made by heating agricultural or forestry waste in a controlled process that uses very little oxygen, called pyrolysis. The resulting product locks in carbon in a solid form that cannot then easily escape into the atmosphere. To be verified as a CORC, biochar has to sequester carbon for at least 100 years.
The CORC Bio-based Construction Materials Price Index, which tracks CORCs generated from the sale of long-lasting wood elements in building construction, has seen a less dramatic rise, but even so, the price is still rising. Latest figures from the Puro.earth marketplace show they have risen by around $2 (£1.65) to $3. The offsets on offer from Noritec Holzindustrie went up from €25 to €27, while Moelven Glulam offsets rose from €24 to €27 and Norway-based Are rose by €2.50 to €26. Under the Puro methodology for bio-based construction, bio-based removal carbon credits are guaranteed for a minimum of 50 years.
The rise is seen perhaps most starkly in the three years between Puro.earth’s first ever CORC auction in May 2019, when the volume weighted average price per CORC was €26.92, and the average CORC price in May of this year: €76.74.
The net zero pledge effect
One of the main drivers of this upward trend are net zero pledges. In 2020, the number of companies making these pledges doubled to 1,565, representing $12.5 trillion in annual revenues. Through the Net-Zero Asset Managers initiative, 128 signatories representing $43 trillion in assets have committed to supporting companies’ net-zero ambitions.
If we look to the future, it is possible there will be even more demand for carbon offsets and removals that could lead to upward price pressures. Under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, countries will be allowed to authorise offsets as Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes in the future. The aim here is to avoid double counting, whereby the offsets are counted as part of the country’s own emissions reduction targets as well as those of the country in which the buyer is situated. But the unintended consequence is that there will be competition between countries and companies for the same emissions reductions and removals, which could stimulate demand significantly.
A lack of high-quality credits is the main challenge facing the voluntary carbon market. Puro.earth is addressing this by using a rigorous verification process. Its two-step, lab-tested verification is undertaken in partnership with third-party auditors. These measures are comparable to rigorous financial auditing processes and ensure that supplied carbon removals provide real and long-term removal of CO2 from the atmosphere for buyers, negating the need to re-purchase removals down the line.
As new carbon removal innovations come to the market, investors can also use the indexes as a benchmark for working out the price of potential carbon credits. New projects could also use the indexes as a way to estimate carbon revenue and in doing so, assess future risks. Before Nasdaq and Puro.earth published the CORC Carbon Removal Price Index, there was no transparency about pricing in the engineered or tech-based carbon removal market.
“As with all commodity markets, participants in the carbon removal market need data to better understand the market and make decisions,” said Puro.earth CEO Antti Vihavainen. “That is what we mean with the word transparency. The indexes create a price signal that will help corporate buyers budget for and invest in innovative removals. Prices in future trades can reflect changes in the price index.”
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