Offsetting should follow exhaustive carbon reductions, and with credible short-term plans in place to make further conclusive reductions.
Being carbon neutral means the carbon emitted by an activity (e.g. making a product) are cancelled out, or offset, today by the reduction or removal of an equal amount of carbon by such verified schemes.
Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals
The highest quality offset schemes to become carbon neutral abide by principles that projects should also contribute to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ideally they help people in Low and Mid Income Countries most impacted by the disastrous effects of climate change. An offsetting scheme should therefore be judged by its impact on a range of SDGs:
In high quality schemes, 80% of funds go to the scheme or focus on social and environmental benefits. Schemes that are considered to directly reduce carbon emissions include biogas generation, efficient cooking stoves, clean water boreholes to reduce the need for firewood, and renewable energy schemes. Under specific circumstances, tree-planting and forest preservation may qualify.
Carbon insetting is an investment in an organisation’s own supply chain to reduce or remove carbon (as opposed to carbon offsetting where an organisation pays to reduce or remove carbon somewhere else). The term is quite new and awaiting international guidance.
Offsetting with CarbonQuota
We offer a portfolio scheme where a specialist partner sources and manages a range of high quality offset schemes to carbon neutral standards. These are governed by Gold Standard or Verified Carbon Standard. Climate positive, also known as carbon negative, goes further and while there is no recognised definition, the norm is 2x carbon neutral.
Rounding off the story
Carbon offsetting is a catch-all phrase and, like net zero or carbon balanced, can be incorrectly used to refer to schemes which are not certified to have reduced or removed carbon from the atmosphere today. Many tree planting or preservation of existing forests lack independent verification after reduction or removal to be considered carbon neutral.
Tree planting and re-wilding schemes are vital to revive biodiversity and help prevent the potential breakdown of nature due to human activities. However they are not usually considered as carbon neutral in the short term because it can take decades for a new tree to begin to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In many ways these schemes are a gift for the next generation.
Forest preservation is vital to preserve existing biodiversity. However it is rarely considered a genuine offset meeting carbon neutral standards because many people claim the forest wasn’t under threat in the first place, or they don’t reverse carbon emissions.
If you want to do something in your local community, we recommend working with a locally established charity because very few high quality offset schemes operate at a local level in High Income Countries.