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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What is carbon offsetting?

By Mark Stubbles

We all know what the carbon footprint represents and we are also aware of the negative effects of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. During the global warming conversations that we see on the news, etc. another phrase that we often hear about, related to the subject, is carbon offset or offsetting. What is carbon offset, what does it represent and how can it be achieved? 

In its essence, the carbon offset represents a way to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions, whether it’s your own emissions or emissions happening elsewhere. If you’re wondering how this reduction can be made, you should know there are two distinct markets for carbon offsets.

Example Carbon Offsets Program: Cloudbridge Nature Reserve
How carbon offsetting works
Sustainable business is encouraged with the use of carbon offsets

There is a great market that allows governments, companies and other legal entities to purchase carbon offsets in order to comply with the maximum amount of emission they are allowed to have yearly. There is also a smaller, rather voluntary market that allows individuals to purchase carbon offsets to compensate for their daily activities that lead to a certain carbon footprint.

Carbon offsets can be translated by financially supporting those projects that are meant to reduce carbon emissions and have a very small carbon footprint, such as renewable energy projects, wind farms, hydroelectric centers and so on. Basically, a carbon offset takes place, so to say, when either an organization or individual emits a certain amount of greenhouse gas, but at the same time invests in different measures or projects that either remove or prevents the same amount of emission taking place elsewhere. This way, you compensate your own emission by making sure you prevent it from happening somewhere else on the globe. The way you prevent it from happening is by making sure there are alternative energy producing technologies and financing them.

A diagram of money flow after a carbon offset is purchased

Financial effects of carbon offsetting
By purchasing carbon offsets companies aim to comply with environmental regulations
There are numerous companies that offer carbon offsets by allowing you to choose the projects you want to invest in, projects that would not otherwise happen. However you want to offset your emission, you can definitely find a way to do so, whether you are an individual or a business. Basically, when you’re offsetting a tone of carbon via carbon credit, you’re making sure there’s one less tone of CO2 in the atmosphere that it would have otherwise been.

Every carbon credit generated by a project has a specific and unique identification number. When a business purchases carbon credits to offset the emissions it creates, those carbon credits are retired through third-party registries. The retirement of the carbon credit ensures a business can claim that emission reduction and the credit cannot be sold to anyone else. This way, everything is kept under control.

Many of the projects that are financed through carbon credit would not be possible without the carbon offset. Many of these projects are highly important for sustainable supply chains they help create, even if they are not a clear solution to global warming, for example. Instead, what they do is prevent and improve, which is extremely important, since the carbon footprints have become wider and wider. Renewable energy, reforestation, forest protection, hydro-power, geothermal energy – all these are definitely a step forward into reducing our planet’s carbon footprint and heading towards an eco-friendly society. More can be learned about carbon offsetting on this page.

About the author: Mark Stubbles  writes for Interact. Interact are expects in carbon reducing technology.

Images: 1. Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, Fair Use;    2. Josh Raymond; CC BY-SA 3.0