Carbon offsets are investments in projects that reduce or avoid carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Often, when individuals or businesses try to reduce their emissions as much as possible, they will purchase carbon offsets to balance out any emissions that are still remaining and, thus, lower their overall carbon footprint. Carbon offsets are usually the only way to reduce your carbon footprint to zero.
There are several different types of technologies and projects that can be used to create carbon offsets:
- Carbon sequestration projects in forests (planting or preserving trees) or agriculture (farming practices)
- Methane capturing technology at landfills and farm
- Renewable energy projects
- Energy efficiency projects
- Many other less common types, like ozone depleting substance reduction
Carbon offsets should be:
- Additional: Additionality is the concept that emissions reductions must occur outside the “business as usual” scenario to be meaningful. Would the reductions have happened anyway under “business as usual”? If “Yes”, then the carbon offset project is NOT additional and should not be used to offset emissions. If “No”, then the carbon offset project IS additional and can be used to offset emissions.
- Verifiable: Projects should be implemented using an established methodology, with data that can be verified by a third party. See the short list of carbon offset certifications below.
- Permanent: Projects should reduce or avoid emissions permanently, not temporarily.
- Real: Projects should create real emissions reductions, not simply displace emissions to another location (known as “leakage”).
A Short List of Carbon Offset Certifications: