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Glossary
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Carbon offsetting
Carbon Offsetting Explained

Carbon offsetting with carbon credits is a way human beings can compensate for the carbon dioxide emissions they create with a corresponding carbon dioxide saving—to make emissions carbon neutral. We produce carbon dioxide emissions through a wide range of ordinary activities including everyday tasks such as driving and cooking as well as more indulgent actions such as flying long haul to go on holiday.  

To take part in carbon offsetting, you will first need to work out your carbon dioxide emissions. Once you have made the calculation, you will need to buy carbon credits from emission reduction projects which have either prevented or removed a comparable amount of carbon dioxide in another place.

By carbon offsetting through buying carbon credits, your purpose is to lessen or cancel out the inevitable damage to the environment which you have created through your everyday emissions by helping to reduce the damage elsewhere. The point of this is to make the overall result carbon neutral.

One of the more well-known ways of carbon offsetting is using carbon credits to plant new trees or woodland to remove carbon dioxide from the earth's atmosphere.

Is carbon offsetting a good approach to tackling global environmental damage?

It would be naïve to believe that carbon offsetting alone can solve the problems of climate change. However, carbon offsetting plays a big part in raising awareness, possibly making people think twice about how they live, and ultimately encouraging all of us to do everything we can to reduce emissions and to be as carbon neutral as possible.

Carbon offsetting can be particularly useful in developing countries where carbon offsetting can result in a fall in carbon dioxide emissions in the area local to the offsetting project.

How does carbon offsetting work?

You can compensate for your emissions through a wide range of organisations or carbon offsetting providers who offer carbon credits.

You can do this when you buy goods and services, such as flights, electricity, or a new car.

Once a carbon credit is officially accredited under the Government's Code of Practice, it will be added to a list which can be found on both the Defra website, as well as a dedicated website managed by the accreditation body. This will allow consumers to see which carbon offsets meets the high standards set out in the Government's Code of Practice and enable consumers to ascertain if they are purchasing genuine carbon credit or carbon neutral products.

What types of actions can use carbon offset?

Any type of action that produces carbon dioxide emissions can be carbon offset by both individuals as well as businesses to be carbon neutral.

Carbon offsetting can be applied to a single activity, for example one car journey, or a number of activities accumulated over a longer timeframe, for instance, a driver's annual mileage.

Some actions that can be offset (and made carbon neutral) include:

  • heating homes or offices

  • using any form of transport including road, rail, and air travel

What is the guarantee that carbon offsetting takes place as promised?

The Executive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism or CDM—a mechanism of the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol—is responsible for ensuring that assessments are carried out for Certified Emission Reduction carbon credits to guarantee that actual carbon offsetting projects take place as described.  For Voluntary or Verified Emission Reduction Credits, this assessment is carried out by a third party organisation which is chosen by the project developer. 

If you're thinking of going carbon neutral, keep this carbon offsetting advice at hand!

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