What makes carbon offset high quality?
The main idea behind carbon offsets is that they can replace greenhouse gas emission reductions that an organization would have made on its own.
Quality in the context of offsets can be divided into two main factors. First, a high-quality offset must represent at least one metric ton of additional, sustained and otherwise unused CO2 emission reduction or removal. Second, a high-quality offset should come from an activity that does not contribute significantly to social or environmental harm.
Various terms are often used to define quality criteria for carbon offsets, including that the associated GHG reductions must be real, quantifiable and verifiable.
In addition to the legal aspects and requirements of standards, the following can be distinguished for each qualitative offset:
- Absence of overestimation
- Sustainability of the reduction or absorption
- Single use (no use of the reduction by another entity)
- Absence of social or environmental damage
How can the quality of carbon offsets be verified?
High-quality carbon credits are generated by high-quality projects and programs. High-quality projects and programs must be well designed and properly monitored, in accordance with all requirements of carbon standards and relevant policies. Quality projects also provide benefits to local communities, according to the type of project. Buyers may be willing to pay a higher price for carbon credits that not only represent real and additional emission reductions or removals, but also demonstrate benefits to host countries and local communities.
Above all, each ton of offset should be created based on a validated methodology, while its creation must be confirmed by an authorized independent verifier.
In the GSS CERT system, each ton is confirmed by an independent verifier with valid accreditation or recognition of accreditation from a national accreditation body for its certification process in accordance with the requirements of ISO 14065 “Greenhouse gases — Requirements for greenhouse gas validation and verification units for use in accreditation or other forms of recognition” and ISO 14066 “Greenhouse gases – Competence requirements for greenhouse gas validation teams and verification teams.”
Credible baselines determine the emissions that would have been emitted to the atmosphere and/or removed from the atmosphere if the project or program had not been implemented. Baselines are expressed in tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2) per year for the crediting period against which emissions and removals of greenhouse gases from the results period are compared. Overstated baselines lead to an overestimation of the climate benefits associated with offset projects and programs, resulting in a scenario where each carbon credit is associated with the reduction or removal of less than one ton of emissions.
Credible baselines are conservative and assume that fewer, not more, greenhouse gases would be emitted. For energy and gas projects or programs, baselines can be established based on expected project performance, fixed parameter sampling or other monitoring during the crediting period. For land and forest projects and programs, baselines are established based on the difference in the reduction or removal of greenhouse gas emissions achieved by the project or program relative to a reference scenario based on a business-as-usual counterfactual.