Success means bringing permanent – measurable – improvements to the lives of the rural poor in developing countries most vulnerable to climate change, says Chen Yang, Chief Commercial Officer at carbon project developer C-Quest Capital, following their win of Best Project Developer, Energy Efficiency, in the 2022 Environmental Finance Voluntary Carbon Awards.
Environmental Finance: What do you think makes C-Quest Capital (CQC) stand out in the market?
Chen Yang: We design and implement high-impact and high-integrity projects that really benefit the communities we serve. Everything we do is about creating permanent, measurable, lasting change for the women and children at the bottom of the economic pyramid. For example, a big part of our portfolio involves distributing clean cooking technologies in rural communities to reduce harmful household air pollution and cut the amount of firewood used for cooking.
We go above and beyond the industry norm in terms of what we offer and how we execute. While other developers provide one stove to a family, we provide two, and meet the incremental cost of doing that. We do this because we know that people need more than one fire to cook on, and if the cookstove project aims to eliminate harmful smoke and reduce the amount of wood burned, they will need two stoves to do that effectively.
Transforming lives, behaviours, and technologies is at the heart of everything we do, which is why we focus on designing our stoves in a very user-friendly way. They are made to be repaired and maintained by the families that use them. So, if there is a problem, they can fix it. If they need to move the stove to another location, they can take it apart and reconstruct.
EF: How do you verify that the stoves are actually being used?
CY: Very effectively. We employ 'Stove Champions' in the communities we work in and provide them with a bicycle and a cellphone so that they can travel to each village, check in with stove beneficiaries, deal with any problems, take pictures of each stove visited, and make sure that the stoves are being used correctly.
The stoves are also geotagged, and that data is all stored in the cloud. So, we know where our stoves are and that they are being used properly. This is important because carbon credits are a different product – you can't see or feel them – so high-quality, reliable data is essential. Because we use Stove Champions and geotagging, we can monitor our projects effectively over time.
We are also verifying and validating our projects through Verra's Sustainable Development Verified Impact Standard, meaning customers can be confident that our significant impact on climate, health, social and economic empowerment is real.
EF: What's coming up next for CQC?
CY: The last 12 months have been very busy for us scaling our projects globally. We now operate in 17 countries with investments from top-tier investors. The world needs every tool it can get its hands on to tackle climate change, and we are determined to do all we can to make a difference to rural communities most vulnerable to climate change and to help our customers decarbonise. We are developing new and innovative methodologies to quantify the benefits and impact of our projects as we explore the transition from reduction to removals technologies.
For example, we're looking at sustainable smallholder agriculture that creates both economic opportunities for women and supply chain solutions for our customers. We are vertically integrating parts of our supply chain to ensure we can deliver quality stoves at scale. We are also setting up a foundation called "For Women" to ensure that, as the market grows, we share a portion of our revenues with the communities we serve. We already fund many projects directly from our balance sheet – for example, education scholarships in Malawi for girls in CQC stoves households and drip irrigation kits for families to increase food security during the dry season – but the For Women foundation will allow us to do much more.