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Choose offset projects with stringent standards

High standards ensure carbon offset projects meet the minimum requirements to yield real emission reductions.

The voluntary market is developing a number of project standards to create a higher level of buyer certainty and improve the long-term viability of the projects. The uncertainties of regulatory structure and market forces make planning difficult for these long-term investments (Molitor 2005). 

Any commonly accepted standard has to be credible, financially efficient to administer and effective in the goal of reducing atmospheric CO2. Because many self-developed standards used in the beginning of the voluntary offset market have failed in one or all of these criteria, there is considerable pressure from both suppliers and buyers for a common standard.

Stringent standards include: The Gold Standard, Greenhouse Gases Protocol, The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) ISO14064, The Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards (CCBS). These standards are designed to ensure additionality, no leakage and permanency and that the offset is verifiable and will minimize unintended negative consequences to the environment, society and culture.

Strict standards include these criteria

  • Additionality - genuine reduction can only be counted if it is in addition to what would have been done in the business as usual scenario, be it for business profit or ongoing improvements.
  • Leakage avoidance- the displacement of emissions where offset projects may create carbon reductions in one place while increasing emissions from another source elsewhere, thus reducing the benefits gained.
  • Permanence - even if the risk of reversibility is minimized before verification and certification and a mechanism offers replacement or compensation for any reversal, there is the possibility that the benefits will be lost.
  • Verification - independent and transparent verification of reductions require accurate and ongoing data recording and analysis and ensuring that reductions are counted only once.
  • Efficiency - successful projects will yield real emission reductions with competitive costs