Carbon offseting - Eco-Libris glossary


Carbon offsetting definition

Carbon offsetting is an idea with growing popularity for reducing the impact of carbon dioxide emissions from everyday activities such as driving cars, flying, etc. Basically, we’re talking about calculating your CO2 emissions resulted from a specific activity, like driving, and then paying an organization to support a project that will reduce CO2 emissions at the same amount. The result is zero emissions - your carbon emissions are being offset.

Carbon offset providers sell the greenhouse gas reductions (mostly carbon dioxide reductions) associated with projects like wind farms, trees planting or methane-capture facilities.
There are many carbon offsetting providers that offer many options, some better and some less. When you look to offset your carbon emissions, you should check thoroughly the projects involved, their influence on the environment, their additionality factor (meaning – if you weren’t paying them, would they reduce emissions anyway? If the answer is ‘Yes’, then your purchase has no real environmental added-value) and other factors.

For a more detailed list of questions, David Suzuki Foundation (on the site’s ‘What is carbon offset?’ page) recommends to check the Consumer's Guide to Carbon Offsets for Carbon Neutrality. This guide published by Clean Air Cool Planet lists some questions that potential buyers can ask of offset vendors, such as: Do your offsets result from specific projects?, Do you use an objective standard to ensure the additionality and quality of the offsets you sell?, Can you demonstrate that your offsets are not sold to multiple buyers?, etc.

Our recommendation:

Reduce your emissions first. Carbon offsetting should be considered only after you did everything you can to reduce your emissions. There are many sources where you can find more on how to reduce your carbon emissions, like the website of An Inconvenient Truth or on theWorld Land Trust site.

More sources:

1. Q&A: carbon offsetting(Guardian, January 18, 2007) - http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/jan/18/theissuesexplained.climatechange
2. Ecobusinesslinks.com Carbon Offset Directory - http://www.ecobusinesslinks.com/carbon_offset_credits_eco.htm
3. Evaluations and Recommendations of Voluntary Offset Companies - Tufts University - http://www.tufts.edu/tie/tci/carbonoffsets/
4. Co-op America: Carbon Offsets Demystified - http://www.coopamerica.org/pubs/realmoney/articles/carbonoffsets.cfm
5. Gold Standard - http://www.cdmgoldstandard.org/
6. David Suzuki Foundation: What is a carbon offset? - http://www.davidsuzuki.org/Climate_Change/What_You_Can_Do/carbon_offsets.asp

Relevant concepts: carbon footprint, planting trees, carbon neutral


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