How carbon offsetting works
For the global climate, it does not matter where greenhouse gases are emitted or reduced. The harmful effect of greenhouse gases on our climate has no country borders. Therefore, emissions that are caused by our western lifestyle in Europe can be offset by emission reductions in a different place on our planet, e.g. in a developing country. This mechanism is widely called carbon compensation or carbon offsetting.
The principle of carbon offsetting is widespread all over the world and is being used by thousands of companies and millions of private individuals for many years.
With every Euro, Pound or Dollar we invest in Europe or the UK, more greenhouse gas reductions and more social benefits can be achieved in a developing country or a country with an economy in transition than in the western world. The reasons for this are the comparatively advanced level of technical development and the already high average standard of living in the West. From an economic and social point of view, it therefore often makes more sense to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in technically and socially less developed countries. There, the positive effect of your investment is usually much larger. Because of this, our carbon reduction projects at GoClimateAction are at home on the other hemisphere.
3 steps against the climate crisis: avoid, reduce and offset
From a climate perspective, it is always better to avoid or reduce emissions before they occur. Carbon offsetting is always the last step towards brining your personal emissions to net zero. It needs to be stressed that carbon offsetting is not a "free ticket" for maintaining or even increasing your personal emissions!
In everyday life, there are many emission avoidance & saving opportunities for each of us. You can find more about this in our climate action tips. But unfortunately, even if we all make strong personal avoidance and reduction efforts, a fully carbon neutral life is currently not possible due to our western lifestyle in Europe. Therefore, the final remaining step to a climate neutral life is carbon offsetting.
It must be emphasized: carbon offsetting alone is not enough to solve the problem of the global climate crisis! But this mechanism is a very useful and easy to implement possibility for each of us to do something concrete and tangible for fighting the global climate crisis already today. We simply cannot wait until 2050 for the targets of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to be implemented.
Carbon offsetting via additional carbon reduction projects
When getting engaged in carbon offsetting, the amount of your remainig greenhouse gas emissions footprint must be calculated or estimated based on existing empirical values. These emissions come e.g. from your leisure or business trips or from your energy consumption at home. These emissions are then offset through your investment in certified carbon reduction projects, e.g. a wind farm in Indonesia or a forest protection project in Kenya. Find a detailed overview on our projects here.
It is important that every carbon reduction project can demonstrate that it cannot be carried out without the mechanism of carbon offsetting and the related additional financial income from the sale of the project's emission reduction certificates. This is called "additionality". Each certified carbon reduction project must provide an additionality prove. Your investment is always about climate action that would normally not have happened under a business-as-usual scenario, but demonstrably relies on your extra investment in your climate neutral life. In addition to "additionality", the emission reduction certificates used to offset your your carbon footprint must of course stand for permanent emission reductions and must provide evidence for this.
What are emission reduction certificates?
All recognized carbon reductions projects are verified usually once a year by independent certifiers. This ensures that the expected additional emission savings are actually achieved by the project.
Subject to the successful annual project check (the so-called verification), the initiators of the carbon reduction projects receive emission reduction certificates. These certificates document the emission savings of the respective carbon reduction project. The reduction certificates are receipts that a carbon reduction project has reduced a certain amount of greenhouse gases. Each receipt stands for 1 ton of reduced greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). The reduction credits can then be sold by the project developer in order to secure the financing necessary for the continued implementation and maintenance of the respective project.
The verification cycle for carbon reduction projects
Each carbon reduction project must go through a strict and standardized verification cycle including usually annual verification by independent auditors. This cycle varies slightly depending on the selected project quality standard, but always follows the same strict monitoring principles. This ensures that the carbon reductions are factual and sustainably achieved.
Our carbon reduction projects at GoClimateAction are either certified according to the Gold Standard (GS) for the Global Goals, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) or the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). You can learn more about these standards here.
Retirment of emission reduction certificates in electronic databases
To ensure that each emission reduction certificate only exists once and is only counted once, all these credits are stored in electronic format in publicly accessible project databases - the so-called "registries".
Each carbon reduction project quality standard has it's own database. On our project pages, you will find a link for every project to the respective registry website where you can find all externally checked details about each project.
GoClimateAction has a user account in these registries, in which the emission reduction credits required for your carbon offset are retired. We confirm this with the certificate in pdf-format provided to you by email after your order.