Who is who in the carbon project lifecycle

Are you overwhelmed by the number of stakeholders involved in the carbon project lifecycle and the voluntary carbon market (VCM)? We shed some light on who all these carbon market participants are and why they are essential to ensure high integrity and avoid conflicts of interest in the carbon project lifecycle.

In a nutshell, the journey of a carbon credit goes as follows:

  1. The project developer selects a methodology from a certification body and develops a project accordingly (e.g., with a funding partner)
  2. Once an independent auditor validates the terms of the project, it is submitted to a carbon registry and gets subsequently listed on one or several carbon marketplaces
  3. Then, carbon credits are readily available for purchase for companies, institutions, etc., to counterbalance their unabated emissions and contribute financially to advancing climate action
  4. Last but not least, the project activities are recurringly monitored and verified throughout the whole crediting period
This visual can also better illustrate the key steps in the carbon project lifecycle:

Read on to find out more about each of the key stakeholders involved in this process.

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Project developers

A project developer is responsible for the design, implementation, maintenance, and monitoring of the carbon project. His responsibilities include researching, selecting, and negotiating project sites, buying land or working with landowners, developing project plans and budgets, and managing the different project phases. Project developers must ensure that the project adheres to local, state, and federal regulations regarding emissions, land use, and environmental protection. Additionally, project developers must comply with national and international agreements such as the Paris Agreement on climate change.

When forging projects, developers need to pay close attention to ensuring the high integrity of the project. This assurance entails conducting thorough feasibility studies to identify the potential environmental, social, and economic impact, and engaging local stakeholders to secure their interests. Additionally, it requires developing plans for monitoring and evaluating the project’s progress. Developers must ensure that benefits from the project get shared among all stakeholders and that all project activities respect human rights and advance sustainable development.

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Funding partners

Funding partners and early-stage investors play a critical role in the ecosystem of the VCM as they provide capital to carbon projects. They enable the scaling of existing projects or fund the development and implementation of new projects and technologies. Additionally, funding partners can help de-risk projects and make them more attractive to other potential investors. By providing capital to carbon projects, funding investors support attractive climate solutions and help drive the development of a more robust and liquid VCM

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Validation and verification bodies

Third-party validation and verification bodies (VVB) are independently responsible for the measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) of carbon projects. First, they validate the measured amount of greenhouse gas emissions reduced by a specific mitigation activity. Second, they report on whether the project adheres to the quality criteria, calculations, and requirements as per their definition in the appropriate methodology. Third, they verify that the project follows all the requirements for the project certification and issuance of carbon credits [5]. VVBs should provide an unbiased assessment of the project’s impact and quality and thus represent an essential layer of trust to buyers of carbon credits.

Digital MRV processes simplify the tracking, collecting, analyzing, and verifying of the data from carbon projects. Digital MRV uses advanced technologies such as big data, remote sensing, blockchain, and geospatial analysis to make the project MRV processes more efficient. This way, the continuous assessment of projects (e.g., how many credits a project can generate once it has officially started) gets simplified and automatised, which increases transparency and trust.

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Certification bodies

The VCM is subject to several well-established certification bodies such as Gold Standard, Verified Carbon Standard, etc. These standards must ensure that carbon credits purchased in the VCM are real, additional, quantified, verified, unique, high-quality, and permanent [1, 2]. Each standardisation body has proprietary rules and requirements for certifying the carbon credits. The central criterion for the success of a standard is its trustworthiness and credibility [3]. High project quality and reliability of the standard body should correlate with a high price for the carbon credits, as project development and implementation are usually more expensive as well [4]. The standards and methodologies associated with each project type provide guidelines for project developers on how to create and implement carbon projects and on how to calculate and monitor the achieved impact.

Apart from the large, well-known certification bodies, others have been more recently developed, typically with a more localised approach. Some examples are the Waldklima Standard, and the European Biochar Certification (EBC). These standards provide guidance and best practices for developing and implementing carbon projects in specific regions. They can adapt better to the unique needs and circumstances of certain project locations. Moreover, by tailoring the requirements of the standards to the local context, carbon projects can contribute to better-adapted sustainable development. Adaptation is key because carbon projects should not aim exclusively at having a net positive climate impact. Instead, they should also align with the cultural and social values of the local community and address ecological needs [5]. A climate protection measure should not have any negative consequences for society, climate, or nature [6].

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The key responsibility of the registries in the VCM is overseeing and tracking transactions and retirements related to carbon credits. A registry acts as a central point of contact for verifying and certifying the authenticity and quality of the carbon credits, as well as ensuring the accurate and secure record of transactions. Independent registries allow market participants to monitor their holdings, and strengthen confidence in the VCM. All project documentation, including existing VVB and monitoring reports, agreements, and contracts are published through the registries.

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Marketplaces & exchanges

Marketplaces provide a platform for connecting buyers and sellers in the VCM, allowing for the efficient exchange of carbon credits and other natural assets. They enable buyers to manage their portfolios, track prices, access market insights, and allow sellers to promote and list their projects. Marketplace services typically include order matching, and other value-added services such as credit tracking, project monitoring, and analytics. Marketplaces are an essential part of the VCM for driving liquidity, efficiency, and transparency in the market.

Exchanges in the VCM are essentially marketplaces that provide access to buyers and sellers to trade carbon credits. Exchanges act as intermediaries between participants, providing a safe, secure, and transparent platform for buying, selling, and trading carbon credits across the VCM. Exchanges also provide services such as price discovery, market transparency, and liquidity for carbon credits.

The Callirius marketplace

At Callirius, we value nature as an asset class. We use our knowledge of financial markets to build a transparent, efficient, and high-integrity marketplace based on traditional market principles. In this marketplace, on one hand, we give access to corporates, institutional investors, and individuals to high-integrity nature-based carbon projects. On the other hand, we help land owners, project owners, and developers of high-impact carbon projects to find suitable financing partners or the marketplace for their resulting carbon credits. 

Our marketplace enhances project and credit transparency, market and pricing efficiency, and allows more participants to engage in climate investments. We follow a rigorous and data-driven quality assessment, which goes far beyond the rules that different registries set for issuing carbon credits. It is based on the integrity standards set by the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM), and it includes additional criteria, such as biodiversity and community well-being, and sustainable development. You can learn more about our approach here.

We use edge technology, such as AI and blockchain, to make our solution scalable and accessible. Taking care of natural ecosystems is core to our effort to help preserve our planet with active decarbonisation.

For further background on key carbon markets terms mentioned in this blog, visit our glossary for an in-depth explanation.

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Corporate buyers

Corporate buyers play a vital role in the ecosystem of VCM by providing a demand for carbon credits. They are the most available source of financing for the development of carbon projects and help ensure their long-term viability. By purchasing carbon credits corporate buyers can counterbalance their unabated carbon footprint and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and climate action. Their investments enable the development of innovative climate solutions. Additionally, they help increase public awareness of the importance of climate action, and the potential benefits of the VCM. Companies shall nevertheless have a solid decarbonisation strategy to first reduce and avoid their own emissions. Investments in climate solutions and carbon credits shall be then an additional tool for climate action. You can find more in our article on “The role of carbon projects in the decarbonisation strategy”.


  1. Paul, S. & Schellenberger, A. (2015): Organische Böden, Klima und der Kohlenstoffmarkt. BGS Bulletin, 36, 57-69.
  2. Wolters, S., Schaller, S. & Tänzler, D. (2018): Potenziale des freiwilligen Marktes für die Kompensation von Treibhausgasemissionen in Deutschland. Berlin, Adelphi, 1-21.
  3. Hammer, E. & Vorbach, S. (2010): Voluntary Carbon Offsets – Eine Bewertung europäischer Retailer von Zertifikaten zum Ausgleich von Treibhausgasemissionen. Uwf 18, 71-77.
  4. Blasch, J. (2014): Consumer Demand for Voluntary Carbon Offsets. The Role of Motivations, Contexts, and Framing for Public Good Provision to Mitigate Climate Change. DISS. 22256, 1- 185.
  5. Strasdas, W., Gössling, S. & Dickhut, H. (2010): Treibhausgas-Kompensationsanbieter in Deutschland. Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverbandes e.V, 1-111.
  6. Vigil, S. (2018): Green grabbing-induced displacement. Routledge Handbook of Environmental Displacement and Migration, 370-387.
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