Providing orientation, reaching climate goals: Guide to quality standards on the market for offsets

Area after peat mining during renaturation in Northern Germany in Dead Moor

It makes no difference to the earth’s atmosphere where or through which activity climate-damaging greenhouse gases are emitted. This also applies to CO2 reductions: forest preservation projects, rewetting of peatlands, and energy projects can have a positive effect on the overall climate footprint, irrespective of their location. Voluntary carbon offsetting is based on this principle. It enables private individuals, businesses and governments to provide financial support to mitigation projects elsewhere and to acquire certificates for doing so, thus compensating for unavoidable emissions they had caused.

However, the assessment and assurance of the environmental and climate impacts of a project is, in practice, complex. What level of emissions would have been generated without the project? How permanent is the reduction? And does the project contribute to sustainable development at its location? Quality standards for voluntary offsetting provide answers to these and other questions. They ensure compliance with important criteria, certify the climate projects, and ensure appropriate disclosure of the results. However, since there are a multitude of international and national quality standards, many consumers are overwhelmed with judging and selecting them.

adelphi, in cooperation with sustainable AG, has developed a practical guide that serves as an orientation aid for consumers and companies in Germany. It helps to provide an overview of the market for voluntary offsets and to make a qualified choice when buying offset certificates.

adelphi and sustainable carried out an inventory of essential standards, analysing and evaluating these on the basis of relevant criteria, and deriving recommendations. Easy-to-understand explanations, descriptions, a checklist and informative charts illustrate the results. In addition, an informative event was held to discuss preliminary results with experts on the voluntary market.

The voluntary carbon market can contribute to achieving the Paris climate targets. The guide helps to leverage this potential by creating a more transparent market for consumers.

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