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The carbon markets have long been at the centre of the polarizing debates on climate change.

Recently there’s been a backlash against carbon markets. Prices have fallen as credit buyers have reduced or stopped purchases.

There is some hope: new guidance, pathways to regulation and integrity measures are being rolled out. But for now confusion and distrust remain.

In this choppy market, how you explain a product or solution to the market is paramount.

Communication on climate transition is fascinating in that it’s not just the action but the way in which it is communicated that is put under the spotlight. 

Being public isn’t always a choice. Public and private companies are increasingly required to communicate their climate impact and their commitments to reduce it. Their activity and track record in carbon markets is a critical part of this communications effort.  

Companies today continue to face criticism for making false green claims regarding carbon initiatives, and with ongoing confusion and debates around carbon markets, it is vital to mitigate risk and avoid greenwashing when communicating. It is important to know how best to take control of the carbon narrative to help drive the market forward.

Communications are important to build trust in carbon markets, particularly as these markets play an increasingly important role in collective global efforts to achieve net zero.

We ran a panel at a recent EY event entitled: 'Carbon credits in a net-zero strategy: what you need to know' that looked specifically at communications in carbon markets. Our Global Head of Sustainability Communications, Charlie Morrow, moderated a line-up of fantastic communications including Ed Hewitt, Natural Climate Solutions Lead at Respira International; Dr Linn Anker-Sørensen, Global Sustainable Finance Law and Regulation Leader at EY, Mark Downes, Global Director of Communications at IETA, and Tara Burke, Communications Director at ICVCM.

The panel discussed a wide mix of communications challenges and opportunities those operating in and around carbon markets face, including buyers of carbon credits.

Here are three important takeaways from the panel, to help companies effectively communicate in carbon markets and move the narrative forward within the context of greater climate action.

Be clear ­– Adapting the language of a message to simplify complex issues in carbon markets is critical. Explain your strategy, the measures you are taking, and the areas they do and do not cover. To help reduce confusion around carbon markets, statements need to be easily understood by all stakeholders; make sure you are being clear about what you are doing and the points of reference and quality you are using.

Be honest – All communications should be transparent and honest; do not make any misleading claims or false claims. Companies are accountable for what they are communicating. Honest communications will help build people's trust in carbon markets. Be honest and open about what you can’t yet achieve.

Be personable ­– Make your communications stand out and be memorable – we heard a highly memorable comparison between the global carbon market to the global beer industry. New, understandable and relatable analogies work. Engage audiences and deepen their understanding of carbon markets.

As communicators, it is our responsibility to ensure we are helping to reduce the confusion around carbon markets. Following these three steps will help as carbon markets continue to evolve and become more widely adopted as a critical tool to fight climate change.

Charlie Morrow is Cognito’s Global Head of Sustainability