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Policy & Politics

Published on August 1st, 2018 | by The Beam

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Transforming Digital Currency: How Trading In Carbon Can Save The Planet

August 1st, 2018 by  


Carbon is a very real thing, but to many of us it seems to only exist as an abstract concept, disconnected and unrelated to the reality of our day-to-day lives. But what if it could be brought into our daily exchanges in a real and beneficial way?

Ultra Carbon, the latest digital currency launched by Hub Culture, is a way to make carbon a more tangible and integrated part of our lives. The currency is backed by real environmental assets, such as rainforests and other carbon offsets, thus making it possible to buy, sell, and trade in carbon. Stan Stalnaker, founder of Hub Culture, spoke with us about his vision for the new currency, and the ways that it can benefit the environment.

But we were also curious — how likely is Ultra Carbon to succeed? Consultant and regular CleanTechnica contributor Michael Barnard offered us his opinion on the new currency. “Hub Culture is well positioned for blockchain-enabled cryptocurrencies. It has a long track record of working with high-net worth, mobile consumers,” he explains. Additionally, Hub Culture “has a track record of a virtual currency for exchanging services, effectively standardizing and commoditizing services bartering for its members. It has a long track record of carbon sequestration through reforestation as part of its approach.” In other words, the company is well versed in the technical aspects of not only digital currencies, but also in incorporating carbon sequestration into its services. Michael concludes, “Its members are clearly technically savvy, creative class members who are most likely to be interested in cryptocurrencies. This combination is an excellent match for the strengths of cryptocurrencies and makes them more likely than many startups in this space to succeed.”

Eager to find out more about this promising initiative, we talked with Hub Culture founder Stan Stalnaker about his passion for digital currency and the future of Ultra Carbon.

Tell us a little bit about Hub Culture. Why are you personally passionate about creating digital currency?

Hub Culture is a collaboration network at the forefront of new technology. We develop and manage services for over 60,000 members with the aim to make life better for globally minded citizens. In 2007 we launched the first digital currency, Ven, which is backed by a mix of assets including carbon. Ven helps our members exchange and create value, and includes an environmental benefit built into its core structure through asset backing. We did this to bring the ‘externality’ of carbon into the economy of Hub Culture, building in environmental protection to everything we do. That makes Ven a better currency for our community, with better outcomes and benefits.

I’m personally into the idea that our generation can create solutions for inclusive growth and betterment for everyone using technology. With so many problems in the world, we need to find and scale big solutions that change the old paradigms of how we create and distribute value. Digital currencies like Ven go a long way toward enabling systems that can drive pervasive change. Ultra Carbon is an example of an outcome from these new systems — and in itself offers a step forward in our efforts to value and protect nature.

You’ve just launched a new initiative, Ultra Carbon. How does it work?

Ultra Carbon is the first tokenized asset in the Ultra System, an exchange network for tokenized assets. We believe that blockchain and AI technologies have the potential to change how things are done, and open the door to creating digital representations of many physical goods in the online space. Ultra Carbon takes the Ven engine and reweighs it from a basket of assets to pure carbon, which enables members to trade, store and buy/sell carbon. This makes offsets easier and provides an new digital asset for our members to use.

What would a real example look like today?

OK – If you are BP, you are both a producer and consumer of carbon credits, and the market has points where these things are traded, but they are not highly liquid or exchangeable. With Ultra Carbon, BP could make carbon offsets for its fuel available to all of its customers, and the customers could then hold the value of the carbon offset purchased in the form of Ultra Carbon directly, to use, sell or trade at a later date should they wish. Ultra Carbon makes carbon available to everyone.

To what extent is it already possible to implement this technology?

Since 2007 we have traded over 500 million Ven, and put 25,000 acres of rainforest under protection through the carbon element backing Ven. With a fully carbon backed token like Ultra Carbon, we help companies take concrete steps to protect nature and provide them a liquidity asset. Our hope is to move 1 billion carbon tokens into the market over the next 12-24 months, saving millions of trees and funding carbon generative projects along the way.

Where did the concept for Ultra Carbon originate? What was the inspiration that got you going?

The idea for Ultra Carbon came from the Hub Culture Innovation Campus in Bermuda, where we worked last year for four months on big game changing ideas. One idea that came out of the Campus was Ultra — a system to tokenize all sorts of assets. Ultra Carbon is simply the first asset to be tokenized, and we are have exciting extensions coming to Ultra as part of the program. With Ultra Carbon we can finally trade natural value in realtime to anyone, with clear benefits visible to everyone.

How do you see technology changing modern currency?

Technology is changing everything right in front of us, and that includes the very nature of money. Recently we presented Ultra Carbon to a group of over 20 central bank representatives, showcasing how the Ultra system will also tokenize national currencies to unlock new ways of making transactions. We think by the end of the year all major currencies will be tokenized and on blockchains, opening up new opportunities.

How likely is this system to prevent fraud, relative to other existing carbon trading schemes?

One of the key aspects of Ultra Carbon is the 10-year relationships we have in the carbon space — working with Winrock to identify high quality projects generating carbon credits, and with blockchain providers like Poseidon, who are issuing carbon on the blockchain. Additionally, Hub Culture is identifying land projects and forests to invest in, so that acreage can be put under protection as part of land reserves. Together, the carbon ingredients to Ultra Carbon can be verified, insured and monitored.

What has the reception been like so far?

The initial reaction for Ultra Carbon is encouraging — it really does change the game for holding carbon by making it an easy to exchange liquid asset. You can collect it, store it and trade it in new ways using the system, and Ven liquidity helps provide a safe and stable exit should you need to monetize the asset.

What have been the biggest obstacles so far?

The key to unlocking Ultra Carbon is both technical and regulatory. Recent changes in the law around digital assets in our HQ market of  Bermuda have opened the door to tokenize all sorts of assets and to make them available to our membership.

Where are your biggest opportunities for growth?

For Ultra Carbon the opportunity is to present companies with a liquid, easy to use and verifiable carbon asset with insurance components. This changes everything for holding carbon as an asset on the balance sheet of a company, and presents opportunities for carbon as a better, more usable asset class.  Now every company has the opportunity to hold carbon, and therefore offset carbon emissions in a more effective way.

What sort of time line are you looking at, with regards to Ultra Carbon and digital currency in general?

Hub Culture is being built for the seventh generation — our children and their children — as a prototype for the first virtual state. The introduction of currency, and now tokenized commodity assets, into the economy is generating the roots for long term growth and development of the community. However long the timeline of these projects, they are also available and working today, enabling wide participation and involvement from our existing membership. We are acting today to build the world we want for tomorrow.

By Erika Clugston  
 





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The Beam Magazine is a quarterly print publication that takes a modern perspective on the energy transition. From Berlin we report about the people, companies and organizations that shape our sustainable energy future around the world. The team is headed by journalist Anne-Sophie Garrigou and designer Dimitris Gkikas. The Beam works with a network of experts and contributors to cover topics from technology to art, from policy to sustainability, from VCs to cleantech start ups. Our language is energy transition and that's spoken everywhere. The Beam is already being distributed in most countries in Europe, but also in Niger, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Japan, Chile and the United States. And this is just the beginning. So stay tuned for future development and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Medium.



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