Carbon credits – the DevvStream way

The ‘net zero goal’ should be a top priority for every company and government, yet few have the expertise to achieve it. Discover how carbon credits can help steer companies and governments towards a greener future


In the realm of business and politics, one promise currently trumps all – namely the ‘net zero goal.’ This ambition is as well-meaning as it is promising, but it’s becoming acutely evident that the majority of those in leadership positions – across both governments and the commercial sector – lack the know-how needed to implement measures that will make a real difference, such as meeting this all-important milestone.

A general consensus of perhaps justified cynicism currently suggests that some players hide behind the fanfare of announcing lofty goals as a smokescreen for lack of action. And, despite grabbing the attention of the world’s media at the announcement stage, there is often very little by way of tangible plans or strategies to deliver what they have just trumpeted.

As the CEO of DevvStream, a Canada-based technology-led ESG company, I have personally discussed the issue with UN representatives, and it’s clear that the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) are nowhere close to being met. So what specific challenges must be tackled to change course, steering more companies and governments towards a greener future – and what is needed to enlighten company leadership teams and governments?

First of all, we all need to establish where the problem lies. Secondly, we need to harness the tools already given to us by nature, alongside the tools that we can invent ourselves through technology. It is also important to be realistic about human nature: we can’t depend on altruistic and charitable behaviour to drive change. Rather, we need to make this issue economically viable and even profitable. And this is why carefully targeted carbon credits are so important. To give an example, we have developed nature-based projects in developing nations to prevent rainforests from being destroyed by oil and mining developers. This is achieved by showing local tribes that they are able to generate more revenue by keeping the trees – and the ecosystems that depend upon them – alive through carbon credits, rather than simply allowing irreplaceable swathes of pristine nature to be obliterated for the sake of, say, swanky furniture.

The technologies needed for us to fight global climate change already exist

As we all know, knowledge is power, and this very much applies in this context – companies and private individuals need to educate themselves so as to take informed decisions tailored to their specific needs and circumstances. This will hopefully contribute to a few myths being busted – such as the belief that nature-based solutions are at the centre of the net zero pursuit. While these types of initiatives – like the one I just referred to regarding the protection of forests – are vital, they won’t contribute anywhere near enough to anyone’s net zero target. A study conducted by American University School of International Service established that nature-based solutions will only contribute up to 20 percent of the reductions necessary to meet the world’s climate change goals. The other 80 percent needs to come from technology – and that’s why we at DevvStream put so much focus on technological solutions.

Technology’s vital role
The benefits of technology are undeniable and plentiful. Perhaps most importantly, technological solutions are much more scalable than nature-based alternatives. For example, we have a wastewater treatment solution that reduces the energy consumption over current methods by up to 83 percent. For a small plant, this equates to over 1GWh of electricity savings per year.

You will find wastewater treatment plants in just about every city in the world; so even if a small portion went about switching to this technology, the impact would be significant. Our building efficiency programme packs an equally powerful punch, encouraging reduced energy consumption through activities such as better HVAC systems or LED lighting; and as for the huge source of emissions that is transportation, our carbon credits help promote and pay for electrifying cars and buses, for instance.

Another technology solution benefit is the speed with which it brings about said impact, particularly in comparison to most nature-based solutions. Take reforestation, for instance – it can take a decade for trees to reach maturity and start creating an impact. In contrast, their technological counterparts can be implemented within months – if not weeks – delivering immediate results.

To continue the comparative count, many nature-based solutions merely keep us at the status quo in terms of environmental impact. You might argue this can’t be a bad thing, and while it’s important not to make matters worse, we still need to reduce our emissions further – and this is where technology comes in. The main source of emissions comes from technology – including infrastructure, transportation, and fossil fuel energy – and it only makes sense to target this very source. On a positive note, we believe that the technologies needed for us to fight global climate change already exist. We just need to accelerate their adoption and make them economically viable – and carbon credits actively help achieve this.

The benefits of carbon credits
I sometimes get asked the question: are the type of carbon credit projects we develop designed with any particular end-user in mind? I would say they have universal appeal, though the credit structure does vary slightly from case to case. As we all know, global warming is a massive problem, with the main culprit being greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide. To address this, the United Nations and countries throughout the globe have created emissions reduction goals and have signed agreements to meet them. When an organisation or country takes steps to eliminate, avoid or sequester carbon from the air, they will receive one carbon credit for every metric tonne. Meanwhile, companies and countries responsible for excessive emissions will need to buy one carbon credit for every tonne they’re exceeding – either according to a regulatory threshold or a voluntary goal. These goals are by no means small – it is estimated that we will need to reduce our annual CO2 emissions by 23 billion tonnes by 2030, and roughly half of this will be driven by carbon credits. This is why the carbon credit market is already massive and continuing to grow. The market was estimated to be worth $1.16trn in 2023 and is predicted to grow to $2.68trn by 2028.

We need to make this issue economically viable and even profitable

At DevvStream, we approach carbon credit investment in a way that adheres to the principles I have highlighted above – we develop programmes that generate environmental assets such as carbon credits with a focus on technology. We use carbon credits to generate streams of revenue for other companies, organisations or even cities and states. In other words, if a company has developed an eco-friendly technology or has set in motion an activity that helps reduce energy consumption or greenhouse gas emissions, we come in and provide a full turnkey service where we generate carbon credits, turning them into revenue at no additional cost. The additional stream of revenue makes their technology more viable. In turn, we get paid via a portion of the credits we generate. So there is no risk on our clients’ part and it is a win-win for all parties.

The carbon credit future
As for the future prospects of this sector and our role within it, it will no doubt continue to grow as more companies and countries will be making net zero goals, thereby needing to invest in more carbon credits. At the same time, there will be a higher demand for ‘high quality’ credits that offer transparency around the carbon impact. We will be seeing increasing demand for precision in the measurement of this impact, along with pressure to disclose further details around the environmental benefits and so on. The process of registering, validating, issuing and certifying credits will also need to be improved, with heightened efficiency. It can currently take up to 36 months to complete these processes for some projects.

By relying on our expertise and menu of technologies – blockchain and AI included – we will help address and simplify these issues. It has been an honour and is also a testament to our achievements in this sector that groups such as the United Nations consider DevvStream a leading expert in the carbon credit space. I was recently invited to the UN’s African headquarters in Nairobi to speak at the UN Environment Programme Science Policy Business Forum. My speech centred on how to tackle some of the problems associated with the carbon credit market today. In addition, we have provided guidance to multiple governments and their compliance programmes. I like to think that we don’t just participate in the carbon market – we are helping to shape it and make it better.