In January 2020, Politiken, a news source in Denmark, published a series of articles under the banner "Climate Deceived" that reference a Gold Standard-certified project.
While the journalists’ findings about past stove usage were not consistent with the project's official monitoring results conducted by the project proponent and checked and verified by an experienced validation and verification body (VVB), if true, they would represent material non-conformity to Gold Standard rules.
Therefore, Gold Standard initiated Step 1 of the grievance process in January 2020 and used these findings to feed into a planned review of the Gold Standard cookstove and safe water access project pipeline and methodologies. This included a careful assessment of reported results and trends amongst the projects applying the Technologies and Practices to Displace Decentralized Thermal Energy Consumption (TPDDTEC) methodology, which covers a range of decentralised technologies, including safe water supply, biogas and cookstove projects, including those referenced in the article.
This assessment concluded that the pattern of results found in the cookstove portfolio of TPDDTEC projects was within the expected range, indicating correct application and credible results. While some outliers were identified (circa 15 across the portfolio of 300+ projects), this did not represent unusual findings. The projects identified will be reviewed specifically in future verifications but no further action has been deemed necessary at this time.
The assessment did find, however, that there were significant concerns of overestimation in the safe water supply portfolio of TPDDTEC , resulting in a separate, but related grievance investigation. The safe water supply investigation concluded at the end of 2020 and prompted introduction of a number of interim safeguards for the application of existing methodology to avoid over-issuance and the creation of a new methodology series that better addresses the core concerns of over-estimation and alignment with latest good practice. The updated methodology also introduces the possibility of choosing to use streamlined monitoring requirements with conservative default factors, which can help project developers reduce time, complexity and costs related to certification.
To provide this conservative yet flexible approach to the broader community services portfolio, a similar approach will also be introduced for cookstove projects. Though there was no concern for over-estimation among cookstove projects, Gold Standard recognises that additional safeguards would serve to prevent the risk of over-estimation happening in the future.
Gold Standard formally closes this grievance with the following actions:
- A new version of the cookstove methodology to be released in Q2 2021.
- Outlier estimates are identified and shared with Gold Standard's certification body SustainCERT to capture and determine necessary action, if any, in future reviews.