Verra CEO resigns after 15 years, president appointed in February set to take over

David Antonioli is scheduled to speak in person here at the GenZero Climate Summit in June.

The founding chief executive of the world’s largest carbon credit certifier has announced his resignation, four months after British daily The Guardian published an exposé alleging that the company developed inaccurate methodology and overstated emissions reductions.

David Antonioli will leave the Washington-based Verra on June 16, according to a May 23 post on his LinkedIn page. “I am writing to let you know that after nearly 15 fantastic years as the CEO of Verra, I have decided to step down. 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.”

Antonioli has not yet revealed his next role.

Verra’s president Judith Simon will serve as Interim CEO, and Antonioli will stay on as a senior advisor to Verra’s Board of Directors to help advise the transition.

Verra carved out the president role in February, while announcing “a major effort to improve its operations”. Simon, who was previously vice-president at Seattle-based real estate marketplace Zillow, has been reporting to Antonioli while overseeing “all elements of Verra’s internal operations”.

Antonioli writes: “We hired Judith in February as part of our long-term strategy to lead, elevate, and scale Verra as an organization. Judith brings the kinds of skills Verra needs to continue to grow and has the support of a terrific team of experienced professionals leading Verra’s departments, each with a set of incredibly talented and dedicated teams that continue to advance Verra's mission in new and powerful ways.”

Antonioli is scheduled to speak in person here at the GenZero Climate Summit in June. The summit is a partner event to Temasek’s Ecosperity Week.

Verra came into focus earlier this year after The Guardian published its investigative piece in January, which alleged that “more than 90%” of rainforest carbon offsets by Verra are “worthless”.

The Guardian’s nine-month investigation also involved the German weekly Die Zeit and SourceMaterial, a non-profit investigative journalism organisation. The investigation and article take issue with elements of the methodology and the calculations used to determine emissions reductions.

Verra’s rainforest protection programme makes up 40% of the credits it approves and was launched before the Paris Agreement in 2015 with the aim of generating revenue for protecting ecosystems, says The Guardian’s piece. “Gucci, Salesforce, BHP, Shell, easyJet, Leon and the band Pearl Jam were among dozens of companies and organisations that have bought rainforest offsets approved by Verra for environmental claims.”

In response, Antonioli published a post on Jan 23, slamming the “sensationalist articles” for containing “outlandish claims”. “These are academically interesting exercises, but they would never pass muster as bona fide carbon crediting methodologies.”

The debate over REDD is “complicated”, said Antonioli. “Certifying REDD activities is not easy, in part because one has to quantify the risk of forest loss that would occur without the carbon project (that is, the baseline). In other words, this requires counterfactual analysis, which is a fancy term for looking at a situation and asking what would happen if things were different.”

He added: “This approach isn’t unique to REDD and is a cornerstone of the impact analyses that government agencies, academics and others around the world use to determine what works, what doesn’t, and how to allocate resources. Counterfactual analysis is, by its nature, impossible to confirm with 100% certainty, but is critical if we are to channel more resources to protecting forests as a critical means of fighting climate change.”

Photo: Verra

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