Greenhouse Gas Offset Facts

1. All offsets are not equal

They vary in their origin, environmental effectiveness, and legitimacy. Bona fide offsets need to meet five conditions, they must be: real, surplus, verifiable, permanent, and enforceable (RSVPE).

2. Offsets create awareness

They develop sensitivity to the planet, call attention to the global climate crisis, build support for public policy, and introduce an imperative for long-term planning into the public dialogue.

3. Offsets should strategically catalyze new technology

Investments in offset projects can lower market entry barriers for new technologies that currently suffer from competitive disadvantages.

4. Everyone needs to participate

The vast scope of climate change demands broad-based immediate attention. Action now will foster the development of efficient systems to effectively respond to the looming climate crisis.

5. Offsets are not just CO2 reductions

The global climate forcing imbalance is caused by six man-made classes of chemicals and a suite of natural influences. The collective effect of methane, refrigerants, ground-level ozone, and black carbon exceed the influences of CO2. To most effectively mitigate climate change a holistic multi-gas approach is imperative.

6. Verified Offsets address both short-term and long-term consequences

Near-term offsets (e.g., ground level ozone, black carbon) can realize benefits over weeks with significant co-benefits. Long-term offsets (e.g., CO2 and CH4) manifest benefits over decades/centuries and are mandatory for climate stabilization.

7. Cheap offsets are not be the best strategy

Low cost offsets are often vulnerable to accountability concerns, perverse incentives, and ineffective climate benefits. Quality offset projects undergo rigorous project development planning, meet UN-defined additionality screens, and are third-party verified upon completion. This robust process assures that real, additional emission reductions have taken place.

8. No widely adopted standards exist for GHG offsets in the voluntary market

Many offset providers develop proprietary standards, adopting some commonly accepted standards and ignoring those that are inconvenient to their projects. Pursuing offsets that meet UN additionality criteria ensures that carbon credit receipts fund real emission reductions, while simultaneously buoying the market for quality (i.e., encouraging reputable standards and proliferating meaningful beyond “business-as-usual” projects).

9. Forestry offsets are transitional

Forestry offsets need to be monitored and quantified over time as they are subject to a host of natural and man-made risks and are therefore not permanent.

Thanks to David J. Jhirad Ph.D and David Shearer Ph.D for contributing to this scientific fact sheet.