Carbon offsets have become an incredibly popular and somewhat controversial way to fight climate change. Many large companies such as Amazon and Delta, are aiming to be carbon-neutral. You may notice that when you book a flight, you are asked if you would like to take part in carbon offsetting and pay an additional fee in the process. Their carbon offsets help provide a net in their net-zero emissions goal. How does that work? Keep reading to find out what is happening behind these carbon offset programs.
What Is Carbon Offsetting?
You may have heard about carbon offsets and assumed that they involve reducing CO2 emissions, which is true. However, there’s a lot more to it than that. Let’s begin with a clear explanation of what carbon offsetting really means.
Carbon offsetting is when a polluting company buys a carbon credit to make up for the greenhouse gas it has emitted. The money is then used to fund action somewhere in the world that removes the same amount of carbon out of the air, or to prevent further carbon emissions.
Offsetting, if done correctly, can help channel funds to conservation and sustainable development that will reduce further carbon emissions, giving these large companies time to work towards offsetting carbon emissions.
Why Is Carbon Offsetting Important?
The activities of humans, such as transportation, agriculture, and electricity generation, are responsible for most of the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere over the last 150 years. This is causing global warming and is the driving force of climate change. This is the reason that many large companies began their carbon offset programs.
How Does It Work?
These carbon offset programs fall into two main categories: voluntary and compliance. Voluntary carbon offsets are the ones people and companies buy at their own discretion. For example, if you do choose to take part in offsetting carbon emission while booking your flight, that would fall into the voluntary category. While compliance offsets are used to meet legal caps on carbon emissions.
Carbon offsetting is quantified in tonnes, also known as a metric tons, of carbon dioxide equivalents. Once the carbon saving has been verified, a project issues carbon credits each corresponding with 1 tonne of carbon dioxide.
There are two types of carbon credits that are the most common. Verified Emissions Reductions (or VER) are exchanged within the voluntary market, while Certified Emissions Reductions (or CER) are carbon credits that were created within the compliance carbon offset programs but can also be purchased voluntarily.
In terms of carbon offsetting, a business, a government, or an individual person is essentially paying someone else to remove a given quantity of carbon emissions from the atmosphere. That can take the form of buying cleaner-burning cookstoves in developing countries that reduce deforestation for firewood. Or financing a wind turbine generator to cut the use of fossil fuels on the power grid. These carbon offset programs can also come as a credit for restoring a section of tropical forest that takes in carbon from the atmosphere.
The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from these carbon offset programs aims to balance the person or government who are buying the offset, opposed to the people installing the project or the place where it’s built. Buying carbon offsets is something anyone can do. Unlike policies such as carbon tax, carbon offsetting is directly connected to a specific quantity of carbon emissions.
Carbon offsetting is a fantastic way to live a more sustainable lifestyle, particularly in terms of air travel. Before booking your next flight make sure to check to see if your airline has its own carbon offset program. You can help to be the change by carbon offsetting!
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