For frequent air travelers looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, carbon offsets present an easy and effective option. Carbon offset schemes allow individuals and companies to balance out their own emissions, generated through such activities as air travel, by investing in a variety of environmental projects, like tree planting or developing clean energy technology. However, not all carbon offset programs are created equal. Here are three key questions to ask about the program you’re considering before making your offset purchase:
1. How long will the project be around?
If the carbon scheme you’re contributing to is a forest carbon project, for example, it is important to ensure that there are measures in place, such as protected area status or conservation easements, to protect the forest for a long period. There is little point in investing in a carbon scheme if the project will not exist long enough to capture and keep a significant amount of carbon.
2. Would the project have happened anyway?
A key question to answer is whether the project in question would go ahead without your offset contribution. A true offset supports projects that are not business-as-usual, and which would not happen without the funds generated from offsets.
3. Are the offsets verified by an accredited third party?
With the variety of options available, it can be difficult to know what exactly you are buying when you make an offset purchase. What is the precise nature of the project, and to what standards is it held? One way to find answers to these questions is to check whether the project has received approval by an independent, accredited third party. Groups such as Verified Carbon Standard and Climate Action Reserve have worked to develop standards to guide the creation of carbon schemes. A project that has been measured against these or similar standards by an independent assessor has a much greater degree of reliability than one that has not.