Carbon offset standards
There have been many problems with the carbon offset market, and in particular with the voluntary market, in the past.
One problem is that the offset industry lacking transparency. Some excellent offset projects do address climate change, help wildlife and ecosystems and produce social benefits, but others have little or nothing to show for all their claims. Beyond that, the price of an offset for a specified amount of carbon can vary wildly between different companies. The offset industry offers a variety of calculations and prices for what sometimes appears to be the same activity.
Where carbon registries are missing, double counting can arise when several people try to take the credit for the GHG emissions reduced by one project. This can occur unintentionally through bad management of a project with a bad audit trail, or deliberately when somebody tries selling a credit more than once – a fraudulent act.
Projects sometimes simply fail, in both the compliance market as well as in the voluntary market. In one famous case 40 per cent of the trees in an offset plantation died because not enough water was made available to support the project. The same sort of thing can happen when a project causes unintended damage. For example, if a forestry scheme uses a significant amount of a local water supply, this can damage local agriculture and people’s ability to grow crops outside the project.
Another trap to beware of is that your project should not be to the detriment of the people “profiting from it”. One example reported involved a project which was accused of working only because people were obliged to use low technology to avoid emitting CO2 – hand-powered pumps relying for energy on human muscles, which critics said perpetuated underdevelopment. The project’s supporters, though, said the people using the pumps had deliberately chosen them.
When looking at the wide range of projects, providers and locations of offsetting projects, you would probably appreciate some guidance in this offset-jungle. In particular with voluntary offsets, where there is no unified