German Emissions Trading Authority

Guidelines on the voluntary offsetting of greenhouse gas emissions

We have published a Guideline on the Voluntary Offsetting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions as well as two studies that give a fundamental insight into markets and quality criteria as well as on conditions applying to forest carbon projects.

Source: iStockphoto

However, avoidance of emissions has priority over offsetting emissions. The Guidelines give consumers an introduction into voluntary offsetting and the market to enable them to compare the quality of offsetting schemes. The market for offsetting services can be quite confusing with its huge range of products of varying quality. There is, for example, the misleading use of the term "climate-neutral", which does not make it sufficiently clear that greenhouse gases are emitted during the activity to be offset, e.g. a flight.

The Guidelines also give providers of offsetting schemes or "climate-neutral" products the opportunity to shape their product to conform to quality standards we deem indispensible. They explain the mechanisms of climate projects and introduce the types and standards of the available certificates.

Critics of voluntary offsetting schemes fear that offsetting will serve as an excuse for not changing behaviour. Their main issue is whether the additionality of climate projects is always guaranteed, not to mention the reliability of methods used to calculate the emissions to be offset. In forest carbon projects, there is the additional question about how long-lasting the achieved greenhouse reductions will be. All these topics are discussed in the guidelines, which also contains a concise check list, enabling users to compare and evaluate offset schemes.

Further information

Studies of the German Environment Agency

Very little was known so far about who offers offsetting services in Germany, who uses them and what kinds of certificates are used. Two up-to-date studies commissioned by the German Emissions Trading Authority (DEHSt) at the German Environment Agency provide an insight into markets, quality criteria and the situation surrounding forest carbon projects, so popular on the offsetting market. Both studies on voluntary offsetting have been published by the German Environment Agency in its "Climate Change" series.

Study carried out by adelphi on behalf of the German Emissions Trading Authority (DEHSt)

Voluntary domestic offset schemes offer great potential as instruments for advancing ambitious climate action and supporting the transformation towards low-carbon economies. At the same time, their possible scope of action in countries with reduction targets is limited. This study carried out by adelphi on behalf of the German Emissions Trading Authority (DEHSt) at the German Environmental Agency (UBA) analyses the characteristics of initiatives in countries that generate carbon credits from domestic projects for being used mainly as voluntary offsets. It identifies respective challenges and opportunities and develops recommendations for improving regulatory conditions in order to advance the development of a domestic voluntary market and leverage its potential for a climate-neutral world.

Guidelines for forest carbon projects

Companies as well as individuals can offset carbon dioxide emissions by investing in forest carbon projects. Thereby, high quality standards must be adhered to. A new publication „Investing in forest carbon projects - Guidelines for companies and private investors” by the rainforest foundation OroVerde and the Global Nature Fund depicts possible criteria.

Source: Oro Verde/Elke Mannigel

The brochure provides an overview of the different types of forest carbon projects, introduces the carbon market as well as the current standards in the German-speaking area, and assesses these standards on the basis of criteria. An actual project from Paraguay exemplifies how the recommendation of the guidelines can be implemented.This project has been documented in a second publication „Chances and challenges of forest and carbon projects – A pioneer project in Paraguay“ (this publication is available in German only). Both brochures are part of the project „Climate and forest protection for private investors” which was jointly conducted by OroVerde and Global Nature Fund. The project is funded by the German Environment Agency and the Federal Ministry for the Environment.

Information by BMUB/IKI and Germanwatch on REDD+ projects

Publications pertaining to the project "Climate and forest protection for private investors"

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