Types of Carbon Offsets

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This is the second in a series of articles that discusses carbon offsets and examines whether they are actually beneficial to the environment or not.

A carbon offset is a certificate representing the reduction of one metric ton (2,205 lbs) of carbon dioxide emissions, the principal cause of global warming. There are a number of types of carbon offsets that are available for purchase. Some of the most popular are tree planting programs. These can be quite problematic however, for a number of reasons. Here’s why:

· Their lack of permanence

· They do not address our dependence on fossil fuels

· It is not possible to equate the tree’s absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide with the carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels.

Other types of carbon offsets include:

· Hydrothermal

· Biomass

· Wind

· Landfill gas

· Agriculture

· CO2 capture

· Coal bed/mine methane

· Solar

· Cement

· PFCs

· Environmental buildings

· Reforestation

· Efficient Lightning

· Material substitution

Another important issue to consider when purchasing offsets is additionality. An offset project is considered additional if it isn’t business as usual. Usually this means that the project would not have happened without the extra funding from the sale of offsets.

Some offset schemes represent a mix of offset credits from a combination of different projects, and it can be difficult to tell what kind of offsets are being purchased. Though these combination packages may often be cheaper than other offset products, bear in mind that you have no control over where and what kind of offsets are being purchased.

Carbon Offset glossary:

  • Vintage. An offset’s vintage refers to the year in which the carbon reduction takes place.
  • Source. Source refers to the type of project or technology used in offsetting the carbon emissions.
  • Certification regime. Certification refers to the system under which an offset is certified and registered. Different methodologies are used for measuring and verifying emissions reductions, depending on project type, size and location.