After having successfully obtained its fifth issuance on 29 January 2019 with nearly 830,000 Gold Standard CERs, all vintage 2017, UPM’s Sichuan Household Biodigester Project has recently also been extended for another seven years until 10 April 2026. Microsoft has recently purchased credits from the project as part of its commitment to operate carbon neutrally.

"This latest issuance of our Sichuan Household Biogas PoA and the extension of its crediting period reflect increasing carbon offset demand and put us in the position to continue supplying our clients with high-end Gold Standard CERs also from 2020 onwards under the Paris climate regime," said Martin Dilger, Managing Director of UPM.

Under the programme, nearly 400,000 small-holder farmer households in Sichuan have been equipped with proven biogas digesters and are receiving free maintenance services. These devices save methane emissions by converting previously untreated animal manure into clean biogas which can then be used conveniently for cooking, heating and lighting instead of burning coal and firewood in open fireplaces with lots of carbon dioxide emissions and harmful smoke.

Microsoft has recently purchased a significant number of credits from the project as part of its commitment to operate carbon neutrally. Microsoft first supported the project in 2015. Its offset portfolio, which is created and managed by Natural Capital Partners, supports high quality emission reduction projects which also empower sustainable development for local communities.

"By operating carbon neutrally, Microsoft is both reducing our operational emissions through renewable energy and smart use of technology at our offices and data centers and addressing what we cannot reduce or replace through offset projects that deliver critical finance to innovative projects in other parts of the world. We selected the household biogas project in Sichuan because it is so beneficial to the health and livelihoods of farmers in this part of China, as well as supporting our emission reduction targets," commented Elizabeth Willmott, Carbon Program Manager, Microsoft.

In addition to achieving access to sustainable and affordable energy, the participating households report much better health due to significantly reduced indoor air pollution. Through the improved waste management process, water quality and sanitary conditions are improved as well as increasing the use of organic digestate as a natural fertiliser on their fields instead of inferior synthetic fertilisers and dangerous pesticides. The project has also created thousands of jobs related to biogas digester construction and maintenance in rural Sichuan.

"Increasingly our clients are looking for projects which enable them to link their carbon neutral targets with other sustainable development impacts. The biogas project in Sichuan is an ideal example of a project that delivers on those requirements and by verifying under the new Gold Standard for the Global Goals, it can point to an independent third party to credibly showcase those benefits," said Mark LaCroix, Executive Vice-President Client Solutions at Natural Capital Partners.

For UPM’s Managing Director, Martin Dilger, buyers like Microsoft deliver critical finance to enable the project to be sustainable. “We are very proud to have been selected as one of Microsoft’s projects. This sort of corporate demand has made it possible to keep our programme alive and enable so many people in the mountains of Sichuan to improve their quality of life significantly.”

This article was originally published on the UPM website.