13 January 2022

VCM 2021 in Numbers and Ratings

Nandita Lal

Carbon Markets Consultant.


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BeZero’s Carbon Markets Consultant, Nandita Lal, highlights the key data points on voluntary carbon market (VCM) liquidity in 2021, focusing on data from the two largest registries, Verra and Gold Standard.

  • 2021 saw record volumes of carbon credits traded. Annual market value crossed the $1 billion mark for the first time driven by demand from energy, consumer goods, finance and insurance sectors¹, as well as new demand in the crypto space from the likes of Toucan and Klima DAO.

  • Prices also increased dramatically; REDD+ prices almost doubled on the year, touching a high of $13.25/mt in December, 2021.

  • Demand is expected to keep climbing in 2022, potentially outpacing supply in the next few years.

  • Project developers like Everland and Biofilica are ready to scale up as demand from corporates to governments increases.

Issuances and Retirements 2017–2021

2x Growth

2x growth in 2021 volumes for Verra — issuances and retirements — compared to 2020 levels

  • Since 2017, retirement and issuance volumes have increased annually, and this year was no exception.

  • In 2021, issuances hit 295 million mt, more than doubling from 2020 levels. Retirements almost double too.

  • March 2021 issuances reached 38 million mt, the highest record for any month ever.

  • December 2021 retirements were the highest on record for any month at 21 million mt.

  • Retirements are a good indicator of demand, however, although not all credits bought are retired


50% of volumes issued on Verra come from 3 countries: India, Brazil and China

  • India, Brazil and China retained their top spots from 2020 as the biggest issuers in 2021.

  • Together, they accounted for nearly half of all issuances in 2021, and cumulative issuances since 2009.

  • In the top 15 countries by issuances in 2021, the biggest year-on-year increases were in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Colombia. In Cambodia, the increase was driven by bumper issuances for REDD+ projects.

Top 10

The top 10 VCS projects make up 31% of issuance and are all in the REDD+ project type

  • All of the top 10 projects by issuances belonged to the forestry and land use sector and accounted for 94 million mt of credits issued (31%)

  • Forestry and land use credits made up circa 50% of retirements and issuances in 2021.

  • Renewable energy projects accounted for 70% of both retirements and issuances in 2012. However, the share of renewable energy in total carbon credit volumes has never returned to that 2012 peak, and is not expected to, as Verra and Gold Standard have limited future eligibility of renewable energy projects in 2019.


Average BeZero Carbon Rating for the top 5 issued projects in 2021 is AA.

  • The top 5 projects by issuance in 2021 show a wide variance in carbon efficacy, with BeZero Carbon Ratings ranging from AA- to AAA².

  • These top 5 projects accounted for a fourth of all issuances in 2021.

  • The Rimba Raya REDD+ project in Indonesia had the largest number of issuances in 2021 of 14.5 million mt followed closely by the Cambodia’s REDD projects in Cardamom and Keo Seima.


⅔ othe volumes retired by crypto groups belonged to the renewable energy sector, while ⅔ of the volume retired by the LNG (liquified natural gas) market belonged to the forestry and land use sector.

  • 16.63 million mt credits were retired on Verra citing “Toucan” as the retirement reason. Of this, 66% of the volume belongs to renewable energy.

  • Credits from Vishnuprayag Hydro-electric project in India were the most retired. This project is rated AA- by BeZero Carbon Rating.

  • The LNG market volume on the other hand was smaller at 3 million mt, but the rating of the most retired project — Katingan Peatland and Conservation project in Indonesia — was higher, at AAA-.


A single Waste Management project accounts for 10% of 2021 Gold Standard issuances

  • Credits from the Landfill Gas and Electricity Generation Project in Istanbul, Turkey made 10% (4.2 million mt) of the total 44 million mt Gold Standard credits issued in 2021.

  • This project has a BeZero Carbon Rating of AA+.

  • Renewable energy dominated Gold Standard issuances followed by household and devices. Unlike Verra, forestry and land use are not a major focus for Gold Standard as it does not issue credits for REDD+ projects.

  • Issuances from India, China and Turkey made more than 50% of the cumulative issuances (since 2009) and made up 2/3rd of the issuances in 2021.

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