How do I select good carbon offsets?

November 19, 2019, by Tani Colbert-Sangree

Wouldn’t it be helpful if there was practice guidance? How to ensure the environmental integrity (read: climate impact) of an emission reduction project and what questions to ask to reveal critical project information? The recently, published guide: “Securing Climate Benefit: A Guide to Using Carbon Offsets” does just that.

Offset credits can be an effective tool to compensate for emissions you cannot otherwise reduce or remove. (As we have discussed elsewhere, claiming to have purchased green power is generally NOT effective). However, deciding which carbon offset projects to buy credits from can be a daunting and difficult decision. One that is rife with the potential for public relation risks should a project turn out to be a dud or cause unintended harm to its surrounding community. Horror stories like these are easy to find, but like any market there are high and low-quality products and carbon offsets are no different.

This novel guide to purchasing carbon offsets, along with a companion website, are open-access educational resources for businesses, organizations, and individuals looking to reduce their climate impact and increase confidence in their purchases of offset credits.

Dee Lawrence, Founder of the High Tide Foundation identified, “This new resource will help both businesses and individuals understand every aspect of carbon offsets – diligent research and background on quality, sound science, rigorous vetting, transparent pricing and permanence – and provide a deeper understanding of how quality carbon offsets are a key solution to help us reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and fight the climate crisis.”

The world of carbon offsets is comprised of many markets and programs and contains projects with varying levels of certainty regarding actual climate impact. Buyers are confronted with the task of navigating this technical and difficult to distinguish market, and distinguishing high-quality offsets from those that more likely to be low quality.

Acknowledging that institutional buyers typically do not have unlimited resources to spend researching before making an offset purchase decision, the guide provides multiple approaches based on your time available to perform due diligence. The guide ranks general risks associated with different project types – allowing buyers to select from the lowest risk project types without performing additional suggested due diligence. If time is available to perform project-level due diligence on your own, the guide provides a process for identifying offset projects that both match your organizational objectives and are of high quality.

This new guide was authored by the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute and the Stockholm Environment Institute through a grant made available by the High Tide Foundation.

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6 responses to “How do I select good carbon offsets?”

  1. Anthony F. Cupido says:

    Thank you for providing access to your guide. I will be sharing that with our students to enhance their knowledge.

  2. Jeff b says:

    Do you have any resources / guidelines for tax deductibility rules for businesses pertaining to the purchase of carbon offsets?

    • Tani Colbert-Sangree says:

      Hi Jeff,

      I do not know of any specific guidance – not my area of expertise – but a quick google search brought up some resources that seemed potentially helpful. Wish I had more to offer!

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