Q&A: Admit

Article, 16 March 2009

Highlights the key elements about this ethical and effective new way to compensate your carbon emissions and support adaptation, now in its pilot phase.

Q: Why the name ‘AdMit’?
A. AdMit opens up a way of trading on the voluntary carbon market that involves both adaptation (coping with climate impacts) and mitigation (curbing greenhouse gas emissions). AdMit also means the investor admits responsibility for the impact of their emissions on the poor.

Q: How does AdMit work?
A: There are two main players in an AdMit scheme. The target beneficiaries are communities who are vulnerable to climate change but have contributed least to it because of their low levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The investors/buyers are individuals, organisations or companies who recognise the impacts of their high levels of greenhouse gas emissions on these communities, and want to invest in projects that reduce those communities’ vulnerability to climate change.

In a transaction under the scheme, the investor provides resources to a poor, climate-vulnerable community for specific adaptation activities. The beneficiary commits to monitor and evaluate the adaptation activities to meet the conditions of a set AdMit standard. The investor meanwhile is encouraged to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions through a voluntary emissions reduction plan.

Q. Is AdMit just a form of adaptation funding?
A. AdMit involves funding for adaptation, but goes beyond it, because the investor is encouraged to take action to reduce their own emissions.

Q. How does AdMit differ from a carbon offset?
A. An offset enables a polluter to shift emission reduction responsibility to another entity. AdMit addresses some of the impacts of the emissions that the polluter cannot currently avoid by helping those communities that are most vulnerable to climate change to adapt, and also promotes emission reduction by a polluter instead of shifting the responsibility.

As for high-value carbon offset products such as the Gold Standard or the CCB (Climate, Community & Biodiversity) standard offsets — which also promote community benefits — AdMit is qualitatively different. AdMit addresses vulnerability to climate change as a primary requirement, with emissions reduction by the investor an additional element. High-value offsets involve investment in projects whose primary purpose is reducing greenhouse gas emissions while also providing additional benefits. They do not invest in projects focusing primarily on adaptation.

Q: Does AdMit put less emphasis on mitigation than on adaptation?
A: The AdMit consortium considers adaptation and mitigation are equally important. Adaptation is needed to address unavoidable climate change impacts that are the result of the emissions the world is already committed to. Eventually, the need will be an absolute reduction in emissions (mitigation). So AdMit expects deliberate efforts from investors to cut their emissions as well as contributing to adaptation through AdMit.

Q: What is the purpose of a pilot phase?
A:There are several practical and theoretical aspects of AdMit that are still unknown. The best way to explore them is via limited trials with actual projects to assess the feasibility of the initiative. If feasible, the pilot will also lead to a recommendation for the best way of implementing a full AdMit programme. Issues such as the nature of projects and measurements of impact, investor commitment and readiness, pricing, transactional models and financial viability will be explored during the pilot phase.

The pilot is also an opportunity for the AdMit consortium to learn, from the research and actual projects, the constraints and opportunities of this approach as well as good practice. Finally, the pilot enables the development of a high-quality AdMit standard based on engagement with various stakeholders, including potential investors, and learning from pilot projects.

Q. Can I support AdMit and also offset my carbon emissions?
A. The AdMit consortium — the network of organisations who are guiding the scheme through its pilot phase — considers carbon offsetting an inadequate response to climate change. However, as investors in AdMit projects categorically offset their own carbon emissions, it would be quite consistent for them also to purchase carbon credits through a certified high-quality offset provider such as Gold Standard or the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance.

Q: Can investors choose which projects they support, or will they contribute to a general AdMit fund?
A: An investor’s choice of project to support is important, so a range will be available. However, in practice it may be impossible to match each investor’s needs to specific projects. Some projects will be undersubscribed, others oversubscribed. Some projects may require pooling of resources from several investors to generate enough adaptive capacity while others can be supported by a single investor. Generally, AdMit will encourage investors to support projects on principle and quality rather than type, sector or location, but is not expected to make this a strict requirement.

Q: What is a typical AdMit project?
A: There is no predefined ‘typical’ project. A project can focus on any sector — for example, water, agriculture or energy. The impacts of climate change and the measures needed to adapt to them vary from one area to another and even within the same area. The pilot phase will only be able to provide examples of some adaptation projects based on the AdMit principles. The overarching principles are that the project is in a community highly vulnerable to climate change, and that AdMit investment improves the capacity of that community to respond to the expected climate impacts.

Q: Do AdMit projects tend to be large- or small-scale?
A: A key principle for AdMit projects is that the people most vulnerable to climate impacts benefit directly, and develop effective and measurable adaptive capacity, as a result of the investment. A project should initially demonstrate best practice and effectiveness at the smaller community scale before being scaled up. Projects that are demonstrably successful can grow, as long as resources are available.

Q: Does an AdMit project have to demonstrate additionality?
A: In the context of the carbon market, ‘additionality’ generally refers to whether a project really makes a difference by effectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the case of AdMit, the main issue is adaptation, so additionality consists in whether an AdMit project really improves adaptive capacity.

Each AdMit project has to demonstrate climate vulnerability on the part of the community concerned, and the investment supporting the community has to address this vulnerability rather than general development needs. This is the extent to which AdMit projects will demonstrate additionality. At the local level, however, it is impossible to totally separate any increase in adaptive capacity from development, poverty reduction, disaster risk reduction and so forth. In truth, improving adaptive capacity will also generate other benefits to the community - and investors will inevitably be happy to see additional benefits accruing at no extra cost.

Q: How do you measure and price adaptation?
A: Carbon emissions can be measured in metric units, unlike adaptation. The AdMit pilot phase will explore methods for measuring and pricing adaptation in a way that is both theoretically consistent and practically feasible to facilitate transparent transactions.

Q: What roles do investors and beneficiaries have in defining an AdMit standard?
A: Potential investors in AdMit can go some way towards defining an AdMit standard by specifying the key attributes they are willing to pay for in projects and how they would like projects to account for their investment. The projects’ beneficiaries will, on their part, help define what constitutes effective adaptation and how to monitor that in practice, thereby pinpointing the main elements of an AdMit standard and the practicality of applying it. The beneficiaries of AdMit will also help define practical ways of measuring and monitoring the change in adaptive capacity as a result of an investment.

Q: How can I participate in AdMit?
A: There are a number of areas where AdMit can be supported during its pilot phase: As an organisation with experience in this area you could provide: technical expertise in the key knowledge areas, finances to enable these knowledge areas to be developed, and examples of adaptation best practice. If AdMit is rolled out and implemented, interested parties can also help vulnerable communities develop AdMit projects. As a potential buyer you could register your interest in buying our products once these become available.

Q: When will the first AdMit projects be available?
A: AdMit should be publicly available by 2010.

Q: How much will an AdMit product cost?
A: The AdMit consortium is currently studying the best model for pricing. While adaptation costs vary from project to project, it may be necessary for ease of marketing and administration to adopt a standardised product. The costs of projects in the pilot phase will be estimated to provide examples.

Q: What type of organisation will sell AdMit to the public?
A: The best institutional structure for selling an AdMit product will also be explored during the pilot phase. It is expected that this will be a body independent from AdMit consortium member organisations.

Q: How is the pilot phase being funded?
A: The pilot phase is being funded through grants from Comic Relief and Ford Foundation and contributions from all AdMit consortium members.

AdMit  - Project page

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