To address climate change, we all must lower the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we generate. Some ways to reduce emissions are easy: take public transportation, when possible; use compact fluorescent light bulbs, use sustainably produced forest products instead of petroleum-based ones. Becoming more efficient in daily activities (retrofitting buildings and improving infrastructure) can be very effective.
What are Carbon Offsets?
Some emissions cannot be avoided. Even if we are as efficient as possible, we won't be able to eliminate our impacts totally. Compensating for these emissions requires the removal an equivalent quantity of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. A "carbon offset" (named for the primary greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide) is a compensation paid for greenhouse gases sequestered or reduced elsewhere. It has a market value and is measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent, or CO2e.
All carbon offsets help fund constructive low-carbon activities (such as wind power or improved cook stoves), and many can come from land-use related activities. To increase the amount of carbon stored in a certain area of forestland or to prevent further carbon dioxide emissions from being released to the atmosphere, farmers and foresters can...
- plant new trees and forests;
- manage existing forests more responsibly; and
- conserve and sustainably manage forests under threat of destruction or degradation.
Paying land managers for these environmental services provides them with a financial incentive to manage their lands sustainably and protect their forests.
How Do You Know a Carbon Offset is Valid?
Make sure that any offset you buy is verified or validated by an independent third party, to ensure that it meets rigorous standards for land-based carbon sequestration. The Rainforest Alliance, a recognized leader in forestry and agriculture certification, provides credible carbon project auditing services against a number of respected standards.
Find out more about offsets that come from projects that have been validated or verified by the Rainforest Alliance.