August 17, 2023

VCM Supply and Demand

A Balancing Act: Supply and Demand Dynamics in the Voluntary Carbon Market
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In recent years, the global focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility has heightened, driving the voluntary carbon market into the spotlight as a crucial tool in combating climate change. This market operates on the principles of supply and demand, aiming to reduce carbon emissions through offset projects. In this article, we delve into the current state of relatively inexpensive carbon, analyze retirement trends, and explore the intricate balance between emissions reduction commitments and offset supply within the voluntary carbon market.

The Current State of Relatively Inexpensive Carbon

A standout feature of the voluntary carbon market is its provision of relatively inexpensive carbon offsets when compared to mandatory carbon markets. This affordability has spurred an increase in interest among businesses and individuals seeking to offset their carbon footprint. Data from the Environmental Finance’s Carbon Market Survey reveals that the average price of a carbon offset in the voluntary market stood at $4.50 per metric tonne of CO2 equivalent in 2022, significantly lower than prices observed in compliance markets. This is not expected to continue.

Retirement Trends in Metric Tonnes

A substantial surge in the retirement of carbon offsets in metric tonnes has been witnessed over the past two years. The years 2021 and 2022 collectively saw the retirement of 135 million metric tonnes of carbon offsets, marking a 30% increase compared to the preceding biennial period. This pronounced trend underscores the growing acknowledgment of the significance of authentic carbon reduction efforts. The Carbon Markets Institute’s analysis reveals that sectors such as renewable energy, forestry, and methane capture have been instrumental in driving this upswing in retired offsets.

Supply Influx and Market Dynamics

While the retirement of carbon offsets has surged, the influx of new supply into the voluntary carbon market is equally noteworthy. Statistics from the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) show that in 2022, a remarkable 780 million metric tonnes of carbon offsets were issued globally, signalling a substantial uptick in supply. This inflow is a direct response to the escalating demand driven by both corporate sustainability commitments and the conscious choices of individual consumers. Nonetheless, managing this heightened supply to ensure its quality, credibility, and environmental effectiveness remains a pivotal challenge.

Emission Reduction Commitments and Offset Supply

The voluntary carbon market's future is deeply intertwined with the ambitious emissions reduction commitments set by various companies. Notably, the Science Based Targets initiative reports that over 1,500 companies have established science-based targets to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century. Collectively, these companies are projected to curtail emissions by approximately 14 billion metric tonnes by 2050. In contrast, the International Energy Agency's Sustainable Development Scenario suggests that the voluntary carbon market could potentially supply up to 4 billion metric tonnes of offsets annually by 2050.

The Delicate Balance

The heart of the voluntary carbon market's evolution lies in striking a delicate equilibrium between emission reduction commitments and offset supply. Ensuring that offset projects effectively contribute to genuine emissions reductions is paramount. An overabundance of supply may raise concerns about the market's overall environmental impact, while inadequate supply might impede companies from fulfilling their sustainability objectives. Thus, ensuring the transparency, credibility, and efficacy of offset projects remains pivotal to the health of the market. Demand of high quality offsets is currently outstripping supply and is forecasted to continue doing so.


The voluntary carbon market stands at a pivotal crossroads, poised to play a central role in global efforts to mitigate climate change. The current landscape of relatively inexpensive carbon offsets, coupled with the surging retirement of offsets, reflects a maturing market that is transitioning towards prioritizing substantial emissions reductions. As corporations forge ahead with ambitious emissions reduction targets for 2050, a meticulous observation of the projected supply of offsets becomes imperative to sustain equilibrium within the market. Striking the intricate balance between emission reduction commitments and offset supply will prove pivotal in determining the market's effectiveness in catalyzing impactful change as we journey towards a more sustainable future.