Carbon offsets aren’t a optimal solution but they are a useful option as the world moves to a non-carbon future. It’s impossible for society to change a switch and completely eliminate fossil fuels immediately. In the meantime carbon offsets are an important part of the equation as environmentally conscious and forward-thinking players work towards an environmentally sustainable future.

In this article, we’ll examine a more in-depth look an examination of carbon offsets: what they are, the reasons they’re important, arguments for their benefits, and the arguments against them.

What is Carbon Offsetting?

Carbon offset is a method whereby funds are redirected to projects that reduce global emissions. Businesses or individuals often purchase carbon offsets, instead of decreasing their carbon footprints in situations where carbon emissions are inevitable, or they combine both in order to make their emissions reduction efforts extend.

Carbon offset projects can include effective cookers in villages, bio-gas generation from organic matter, as well as a wide range of projects that aim to reduce deforestation and regenerating forests that have been damaged.

The process of certifying projects as being eligible for carbon offsets isn’t an easy task. Carbonbay is involved in shepherding initiatives through the Byzantine regulation maze which have been established as part of the U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to ensure that not just emissions reductions are legal however, there’s no existing financing that could be used for the project. This usually means that they’re a deviation from the norm and have a low chances of succeeding without credits. Credits for emission reduction allow projects to get compensation for each metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions that are avoided. They can be verified with CDM or other standards that are respected which include The Gold Standard, and the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).

“Carbon offset … assists environmental projects that don’t have funds by themselves.”

What are the Pros of Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offset can be beneficial both sides of the process. It helps environmental projects that aren’t able to get funds on their own and gives businesses a greater chances to lower the carbon emissions of their operations.

A lot of companies aren’t able to reduce their carbon emissions to the extent they’d like. In certain cases, this is due to the fact that their footprint is already tiny (e.g. software companies) however they would like to grow their business. Other industries, for instance, heavy equipment and ocean transportation, do not have low-carbon alternatives to service their market in the moment. Through helping fund environmental projects that cut emissions, companies can offset the emissions they cannot eliminate themselves.

While the majority of offset purchases are not required but there are some areas in which they are required to meet local regulations and standards to be able to avoid penalty. Another benefit of using the offset method. It provides regulators with a means to enforce environmental regulations.

Others employ offsets to prove that all or a portion of their operations are “carbon zero” or “carbon positive.” Additionally, offsets provide the structure needed for these businesses to monitor their carbon footprint. A lot of consumers are now more comfortable doing business with companies that use offsets.

Carbon offset provides valuable resources for projects that typically absorb carbon by utilizing forest growth and other methods, or reduce emission, for example, green energy production or the use of clean energy appliances. By focusing on projects which will not be able to draw other kinds of financing for example, a unique one in the region in which they are located and provide a viable alternative to conventional finance methods.

After a successful project has been realized through offset and has proven to be viable it’s generally more straightforward for similar follow-on projects to get funding from different sources.

Offsetting has been proven by reliable studies to be a viable method to lower greenhouse gases.

Pros and Cons of Carbon Offsetting

Many criticisms have been directed at carbon offsets as well. Certain of them are philosophical and oppose the notion that rich companies can purchase their way out of the carbon market, instead of taking more accountability for their carbon emissions. Some argue that offsets weaken the pressure for more aggressive collective action like carbon tax. Are offsets letting polluters free of the burden too easily?

Others suggest more practical issues:

Certain forests that are protected by offsets have been later found to have burned or burned or logged. It is possible that this could be deliberate by those who received the offsets.
Are the credit cards really needed and could it be completed without the credits?
Are carbon measurements reliable, and can the organizations that monitor their accuracy be trusted to perform the right accounting?
How do you deal with fraud?
Is global warming taking place too quickly for carbon offsets to prove useful?

There are some valid questions to be asked here. Although no system is perfect however, the majority of these issues have been recognized and addressed when carbon standards and practices change.

Carbon offsets are not designed to replace directly taking action. They are instead as a complement or in some instances, as the sole possible option. For instance, the airline industry, for instance is a major user of offsets since there is no way for commercial aircraft to fly without using fossil fuels. In the international scheme called CORSIA the airlines will be able to stop the emission levels for 2019/2020 and have pledged to offset any increases in emissions starting from 2021.

In the case of forests disappearing following the qualification as offsets issue was addressed in the most recent VCS standard. It only permits payments to be made in the case of carbon sequestration in forests which has already occurred in the past decade. To reduce risks, a certain percentage of the credits paid are allocated to “pooled buffers” to help cover unexpected loss, similar to an insurance plan.

The measurement process is also changing. The renewable power projects tend to be the easiest to quantify, as it is only necessary to check the meters. Land-use projects like forestry could be more challenging however, models are getting better and new technologies such as GPS and satellite imagery drones are now useful in providing a clearer image of the amount of carbon that remains stored.