Carbon offsetting is a method used to finance activities that reduce, prevent, or capture greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in an amount equivalent to the remaining emissions produced by an organization, business, or region that cannot be eliminated from its operations and supply chain.
This financing is accomplished through the purchase of carbon credits, where each credit corresponds to one metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions that have been reduced, avoided, or sequestered by a specific project funded through this approach.
Once acquired, these credits are retired within publicly accessible emission registries managed by international standards and global exchanges. When a credit is retired for offsetting, it becomes an offset, and it is permanently removed from circulation, ensuring transparency and accountability through unique serial numbers assigned to each carbon credit.
Carbon offsetting essentially places a monetary value on carbon emissions for organizations, motivating them to accelerate efforts to reduce emissions within their operations and supply chains, encourage investments in low-carbon business models, and recognize that maintaining business-as-usual practices is no longer sustainable.
To achieve the global goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, significant investments in projects that enhance carbon sinks, either through biological or geological means, are crucial.
Why Carbon Offsetting is a Vital Tool to Tackle Climate Change?
Carbon offsetting is a crucial tool in addressing the challenges of climate change. It operates in parallel with ambitious decarbonization efforts, offering valuable support for reducing and sequestering carbon emissions both within and beyond a company’s immediate operations.
Over the past decade, the carbon market and offsetting mechanisms have undergone continuous development and improvement. The Paris Agreement underscored the importance of utilizing all available tools to achieve global net-zero emissions, with carbon offsetting being a vital component. The recent 6th Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasized the necessity of carbon removal solutions to offset residual emissions and attain net-zero targets.
Despite its importance, the complexity and evolution of voluntary carbon offsetting have caused some hesitation and confusion.
How Carbon Offsetting Contribute to the Path to Net-Zero?
In our current climate crisis, we’re under immense pressure to achieve net-zero emissions as quickly as possible. This means balancing the carbon emissions we produce with actions that remove or reduce an equal amount of carbon from the atmosphere. However, we can’t simply rely on carbon offsetting to get us to net zero.
Reaching net zero is a long-term goal that requires us to drastically reduce 90-95% of our emissions through sustainable approaches. The remaining 5-10% of emissions that are harder to eliminate need to be addressed differently.
In the short term, organizations can help by investing in carbon offset projects that reduce emissions outside of their direct operations. This approach is important because it helps us tackle three major challenges:
- Timing: We need to cut emissions as quickly as possible to meet the targets set by climate experts. Many governments’ current plans aren’t ambitious enough to do this, so we need extra efforts.
- Ambition: Despite global promises to reduce emissions, we’re still on track for significant global warming. We need to aim higher and take more ambitious actions.
- Financing: Governments alone can’t provide enough money to fund all the projects we need for a low-carbon future. The private sector must play a big role in raising the necessary funds.
So, while carbon offsetting is a useful tool, it can’t do the job on its own. We need a combination of efforts, including reducing emissions and investing in offset projects, to reach net-zero goals and combat climate change.
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