Why Carbon Offsets?
What are carbon offsets?
Carbon offsets fund projects that are supposed to provide a verifiable reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Each offset represents a specific amount of reduced emissions, theoretically allowing individuals or businesses to go “carbon neutral” by funding these initiatives to undo their own emissions. Although generally they have been certified by independent agencies, they frequently do not provide the emissions reductions they promise.
Giving Green dives deep into the details to try to find the most reliable offsets available.
How do we assess them?
We are searching for offsets where there is a direct, causal, and verifiable link between someone purchasing an offset and a decreased amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere.
First, we look at the offset market sector by sector, to determine which sectors are most likely to provide reliable offsets. For sectors that we determine to be likely to produce high-quality offsets, we then search through available information and recommend those that meet our criteria. We rate offsets using five categories: causality, project-level additionality, marginal additionality, permanence, and co-benefits.
Note that our offset recommendations are not comprehensive - we have not assessed all offsets in the market (in fact, many offsets do not have any publicly available information). We have developed this systematic approach to assessing offsets and recommend the best ones we find. As our research continues, we expect to find more offsets to recommend.
Please see below for more information on our approach to measuring carbon offsets.
Why are we skeptical of offsets?
Even in the best case scenario, it is impossible to guarantee that an individual offset purchase actually leads to the advertised emissions reduction. By thoroughly vetting the offset projects and by understanding how they claim to use offset purchases, we are able to be fairly sure that your purchases are going towards measurable emissions reductions, but we cannot be completely certain. As such, Giving Green recommends that individuals and organizations view offsets simply as a philanthropic contribution to a pro-climate project with an evidence-based approach to reducing emissions, rather than a way to eliminate their contribution to climate change.
For more information, see "Overview of the Voluntary Offset Markets".