From: R Greenway, ENN
Published October 31, 2011 07:17 AM

Everything you might want to know about Carbon Offsets

Companies, and individuals concerned with their impact on climate try a number of measures to reduce their emissions of air pollutants which impact the greenhouse effect of our atmosphere. The greenhouse effect is the reality that our atmosphere traps a portion of the heat we get from the sun, and from fires (both natural and man made) and other anthropgenic heat sources. Some of the gasses released by our industrialization, home heating and cooling, and transportation activities contribute to the atmosphere trapping more heat than would occur in the absence of these activities.

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There are emissions which CANNOT be eliminated or reduced as much as we would like. For these, companies turn to Carbon Offsets. What are Carbon Offsets? When companies or individuals purchase Carbon Offsets they are paying someone else to reduce THEIR carbon emissions (a major contributor to global warming).

There are companies which assist other companies and individuals in purchasing Carbon Offsets. As in any new market, there is a learning curve for participants. Are the offsets real, are the being sold more than once? These and other questions illustrate how much needs to be learned.

To illustrate what a carbon offset might involve, consider a carbon offset to be an investment in a project or activity that reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or sequesters carbon from the atmosphere that is used to offset GHG emissions from your company or household.

Carbon Offsets may be purchased to offset emissions from your business as a whole, from specific activities such as travel, or from lifecycle emissions from a product.

Carbon Offsets can be generated from many activities including:

  • Planting trees
  • Energy efficiency investments
  • Reducing methane emissions
  • Renewable energy investments

A key consideration in Carbon Offsets is that the offsetting emissions be generated from a project or activity that generates real, measurable reductions in GHG emissions that would not have occurred anyway. To meet this goal, the project must go beyond business as usual, go beyond regulatory requirements, and not be counted against another emission reduction commitment.

What are the business benefits of Carbon Offsets?

  • Meeting business goals to reduce your carbon footprint from manufacturing or transportation activities
  • Preparing for an emissions trading regulatory requirement, gaining market experience
  • Brand enhancement, product differentiation
  • Attracting Investors
  • Engaging employees on environmental issues, attracting new employees
  • Being a good environmental citizen

In conclusion, Carbon Offsets offer a number of benefits to the enterprise, and also to the planet. While not a perfect approach, they are in many ways a win-win scenario.

Photo of forest credit: ep_stock, shutter stock

Australia is taking a leadership position on Carbon Offsets, and the Victoria EPA has an excellent series of web pages with information on this topic. Much of the content of this article is base on their resources. For more information, please link to: Victoria EPA.

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