Offsetting therefore needs clarification to ensure it does not simply enable greenwashing rather than bringing about a real benefit to the climate.
The most important point is that offsetting should be part of a company’s (or person’s) drive to become carbon-neutral. This means that the company avoids net carbon emissions.
Becoming carbon neutral
To become carbon neutral, an organisation needs to undertake 5 steps:
Where can offset investments go
- Assess the current emissions – from travel, heating and cooling, production, etc.
- Avoid – identify all activities causing emissions that can be avoided; e.g. replace some travel by video conferencing, install combined heat and power systems etc.
- Improve efficiency of energy use to reduce CO2 emissions further.
- Offset – only the unavoidable emissions can be offset through investment in Gold Standard projects.
- Review – Review the strategy annually to avoid more emissions and become more efficient every year, and step by step decrease the amount of CO2 emissions that need to be offset. The target should be to reduce offset to zero over time.
In principle offset investments can go into Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
projects under the Kyoto Protocol. Or they can go into voluntary projects.
For both, WWF has helped set up the Gold Standard.