What to Consider When Buying Offsets

To solve the problem of climate change, we all need to consider our personal carbon emissions from driving, flying, or even turning on our computers, and we need to make continuous effort to reduce these emissions wherever possible. However, it is impossible to reduce our carbon emissions to zero no matter how hard we try. For this reason, many have taken the additional action of buying greenhouse gas offsets. When you buy offsets, you essentially pay someone to reduce or remove greenhouse gases for you.

All offsets being sold in this new (and voluntary) environmental market, however, are not of equal quality. It is really up to the buyer to ensure that what they are buying does have an additional environmental benefit. A few questions to ask yourself when considering the purchase of offsets:

  • Do you know the type of project that has created your offset? 
  • Is your project directly resulting in GHG reductions? 
  • Has your offset been verified/validated by a third party?
  • Are the offsets from existing projects or projects planned in the future (if so, how long in the future)? 
  • Is there some proof that your offset has not been sold to multiple buyers? 
  • Is the seller transparent so that you can answer the previous questions?

Clean Air-Cool Planet has published a guide to retail carbon offset providers, C2ES is a partner organization to the Offsets Quality Initiative (OQI).