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CEO of contentious company departs amid fierce claims that product is worthless: 'I have decided to step down'

Antonioli has not directly linked his departure from Verra to these claims.

Verra CEO, carbon credit controversy

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Many companies around the world buy "carbon credits" to make up for the amount of heat-trapping air pollution they produce. The nonprofit organization Verra has been the world's largest certifier for these controversial carbon credits. 

David Antonioli, CEO of Verra, announced his departure in May, The Guardian reported.

"I am writing to let you know that after nearly 15 fantastic years as the CEO of Verra, I have decided to step down," Antonioli wrote in a LinkedIn post. "I am immensely proud of what Verra has accomplished and of the incredible team that has made it the world's leading standard-setter for climate action and sustainable development."

What's happening?

Carbon credits are supposed to fund projects that reduce the amount of carbon pollution in the atmosphere. The idea is that environmental organizations will use the money businesses spend on a credit to either remove carbon from the atmosphere directly or prevent carbon pollution that would have happened without that funding.

For example, a program might plant trees that will filter excessive carbon out of the air or prevent a piece of rainforest from being cut down.

A key feature of carbon credits is that they fund work that wouldn't happen without that funding. If that pollution were going to be removed or prevented anyway, then purchasing the credit would make no difference to the environment, and the credit would be worthless.

The value of Verra's carbon credits has recently been challenged.

In January, The Guardian revealed that more than 90% of Verra's credits may actually be worthless. According to The Guardian's investigation, Verra certified many "prevention" efforts that were unneeded — like "protecting" an area of rainforest that was not going to be cut down anyway.

Antonioli has not directly linked his departure from Verra to these claims, the Guardian reported. However, he is stepping down at a time when his organization is under heavy fire.

Why are Verra's questionable credits a problem?

When choosing products to buy and organizations to support, many people consider a company's environmental impact. This includes claims that a company is "carbon neutral," meaning that it buys enough carbon credits to cancel out its air pollution.

If carbon credits aren't actually helping the planet, then many "carbon neutral" companies may actually be damaging the environment far more severely than they lead customers to believe. Individuals who support those companies because of their climate claims are basing their decisions on false information.

For example, Shell recently offered a program that businesses could use to track how much fuel they were using and buy credits to offset it. If the credits it offered were worthless, as some suspect, then any money companies spent on that program was wasted.

What's being done to fix this?

According to The Guardian, Verra is introducing stricter standards for its carbon credits. By 2025, it should no longer certify programs that "protect" land that was never threatened.

Antonioli's departure also makes room for new leadership that may change the organization's direction.

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