Verra 'disturbed' by allegations in New Yorker article that raises serious questions about carbon-offsetting firm South Pole and Kariba project in Zimbabwe; Verra to investigate Kariba project, and addresses points about voluntary carbon market integrity

Sample article from our Forestry & Timberland

October 17, 2023 (press release) –

Yesterday morning, stakeholders in the voluntary carbon market (VCM) woke up to a New Yorker article raising serious questions about the carbon-offsetting firm South Pole and the Kariba project in Zimbabwe. We welcome and encourage the scrutiny of the VCM by the media and the broader scientific and environmental community. It will not be possible to achieve global climate goals without the financing leveraged by the carbon markets, so we must encourage transparency in the markets and commit to continuous improvement. 

At Verra, we are deeply disturbed by the allegations in this piece. Many of the details reported in this article are new to Verra and were only learned upon publication of the article.  

Therefore, we are initiating an investigation of the Kariba project pursuant to the rules of the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program and the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standards (CCBS) Program. The rules and requirements of these programs provide a path to corrective action when Verra has concerns about a project’s integrity and how a project impacts the integrity of Verra’s programs. The project, and any further credit issuances, will remain on hold until Verra completes the investigation. 

Beyond its concerns about the Kariba project, the article also raises several points related to the overall integrity and importance of the market and our role within it. On these issues, Verra wants to reiterate the following:

Verra is committed to integrity and continuous improvement.

We built an ecosystem of processes and relationships to enable the ongoing development of standards and methodologies that support real climate action and sustainable development projects. We hold ourselves and one another to standards of excellence. REDD projects have achieved enormous impact to date. The forests that REDD projects have been protecting – along with the communities that maintain them and the biodiversity they preserve – play a critical role in the fight against climate change.

We also understand the system is not perfect. The REDD approach is based on a counterfactual scenario; it is an approach that seeks to prevent something from happening. The calculation of emission reductions that result from this work is inevitably less clear-cut than in other cases. That is why we are continuously striving to update our REDD and all other methodologies in the VCS Program to ensure they reflect best practices, the latest science, and our learnings from the past decade.

Verra’s VCS Program today has its strongest-ever provisions for third-party oversight.

Verra launched a new internal Auditing and Accreditation team in September 2022 to oversee the performance of validation/verification bodies (VVBs) in all Verra standards programs. In August 2023, Verra implemented several VCS Program updates, including increasing the eligibility criteria for entities seeking to provide VVB services and creating a process for Verra to educate VVBs on Verra rules and requirements, conduct reviews of and provide feedback on VVB performance, require VVBs to address nonconformities, and report VVB performance to the respective accreditation bodies. The program updates will also introduce new sanction procedures for cases of poor performance by VVBs. In the absence of government requirements for VVB oversight, Verra is committed to acting honestly and transparently. 

Verra is a mission-driven nonprofit that does not profit from transactions in the VCM.

Verra is a not-for-profit organization. Verra does not sell carbon credits or engage in any other market transactions.

Verra believes that the vast majority of actors in the carbon markets are people and organizations of integrity committed to climate action and sustainable development.

Verra is constantly working to create and improve the most rigorous possible standards so that projects upholding these standards can continue the critical work of investing in nature – and, in the cases of avoided deforestation projects, keeping forests standing in the face of relentless, grinding pressure to cut them down 

We are in a New Era for Verra.

After a decade and a half of profound innovation and learning, we are now in a momentaNew Era for Verra where the climate crisis demands an enhanced focus on rigor, scale, and impact. To that end, we will continue to define high-quality standards, earn trust through operational excellence, and expand our engagement with key stakeholders across markets. We are the only major standards body taking on the difficult but critical work of certifying avoided deforestation projects. Since 2020, we have been actively working– through a transparent process that engages a global network of experts and allows significant opportunity for public input ­– on a new consolidated REDD methodology. This methodology is now under its final review by an independent auditor and will be released before COP28. Verra looks forward to continuing this work to accelerate the transition to a sustainable future. 


Joel Finkelstein | Senior Director for Media and Advocacy | 202-285-0113


Verra is a global leader helping to tackle the world’s most intractable environmental and social challenges. As a mission-driven non-profit organization, Verra is committed to helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve livelihoods, and protect natural resources by working with the private and public sectors. We support climate action and sustainable development with standards, tools, and programs that credibly, transparently and robustly assess environmental and social impacts and enable funding for sustaining and scaling up projects that verifiably deliver these benefits.

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