Definition of Carbon Offsets
What Are Carbon Offsets?
Carbon offsets are credits purchased by individuals or companies that compensate or offset a greenhouse gas emission that they may of made.
- Carbon offsets’ units of measurement: Carbon offsets are usually measured in units of carbon dioxide equivalents, called (CO2e), though technically speaking, there are many kinds of greenhouse gas emissions (methane, which is 20+ more potent than carbon dioxide) that are measured when calculating a carbon footprint. Most carbon offsets are measured in metric tons, so that one credit is the equivalent of one ton (2,205 lbs) of carbon dioxide emissions.
- Purchaser responsibilities: Those wishing to reduce their carbon footprint will calculate the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions and, using the footprint figure, purchase credits from an entity offering the carbon credits. The offsets themselves are symbolic of greenhouse gas emissions reduced elsewhere. They are usually attached to actual green projects that will help to mitigate the emissions made. Though reducing your carbon footprint is not a prerequisite for purchasing carbon offsets, most reputable carbon offset organizations will encourage you to do so. After all, the fewer greenhouse gas emissions we release into the environment, the less that needs to be offset.
- Impacts of carbon offsets: The purpose of carbon offsets is to reduce, avoid altogether, or sequester the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions for a given activity.
- Carbon offset projects: In all cases, carbon offset revenues should go toward new projects that measurably impact the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the earth’s climate. There are many forms of projects supported by the purchase of carbon offsets. Such as wind turbine farms and solar farms that will avoid greenhouse gas emissions altogether by producing clean, renewable energy. Others reuse greenhouse gas emissions like taking methane waste to create energy, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions while using them to create green energy. Other projects may include tree planting – trees help capture and sequester greenhouse gas emissions.
- Markets for carbon offsets: People and corporations can purchase carbon offsets in order to reduce the climate impact of their activities. Carbon offsets are also used in compliance markets through carbon trading schemes where corporations that produce too many greenhouse gas emissions pay other entities that produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than they are allowed for the excess credits.
Some argue that carbon trading and carbon offsets are not effective systems for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while others maintain that they are an important policy tool for creating systems that monetize what we put into the atmosphere. If you do choose to purchase carbon offsets, Ecolife strongly suggests that you look for reputable companies that have third-party verified carbon offset credits for sale to ensure that your credits support new projects and then are retired (not sold again).
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