Carbon Direct and Microsoft have published 2023 revisions to their report: Criteria for High-Quality Carbon Dioxide Removal. In the report, the authors lament the lack of a comparable standard for CO2 removal projects and attempt to proffer their own criteria for assessment in the hopes of advancing a common definition of high-quality CO2 removal.
The report lays out several essential principles for high-quality carbon dioxide removal and then discusses how to apply those principles to eight methods of carbon dioxide removal. The authors analyze how different CO2 removal methods should be assessed based on their harms and benefits, impacts on environmental justice, additionality, verifiability, durability, risk of leakage, and other project-specific considerations. CO2 removal methods are broken down into three categories, nature-based, engineered, and hybrid. The report concludes with a call for collaboration stating that:
It is through increased investment, collaboration, and community engagement that we can collectively build a strong foundation for the future of carbon removal.
Presently, CO2 removal is in its infancy and no single method has presented itself as the gold standard for scalability. As a result, carbon capture and storage projects lack strong data controls and validation. This makes the efficacy of many carbon credits questionable. Companies that rely heavily on offsetting for their net-zero strategies are now facing scrutiny as the validity of those offsets are called into question. Hopefully, initiatives like Carbon Direct and Microsoft’s partnership will lead to a standardized and comparable carbon market which will give rise to more reliable carbon credits.