Offset Your Emissions

Once you have calculated your GHG emissions or carbon footprint and taken actions to reduce emission where you can, you will likely still have emissions that you cannot avoid. Here is where the option to offset comes in.

One way to effectively cancel-out your carbon footprint is to “offset” your remaining emissions by paying someone else to voluntarily reduce their emissions beyond what they might otherwise do. These emission reductions will be counted against your remaining carbon footprint and offset the GHGs that you continue to emit.

What Are Offsets?

Carbon offsets or GHG emissions offsets are GHG emissions reductions that are counted against another GHG emission. Offsets are created and sold by organizations that implement voluntary GHG emissions reduction projects. The project proponent calculates the GHG emissions reductions, in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) that the project achieves and has the results verified by a third party. Now these verified emissions reductions (VERs) are sold or traded to another individual or organization wishing to offset their own emissions.

The verification process is a critical element in creating offsets as it ensures that the GHG emissions reductions are real and “additional”. Additional is a term used to describe GHG emission reductions that occur only because of their value as offsets. This means that the project proponent would not have reduced GHG emissions for any other reason except for the income generated by selling the offsets. Effectively making these GHG emissions reductions “additional” to any that may have occurred through business as usual.

How Do I Choose Offsets?

Effective GHG emission reduction projects for generating offsets include; non-emitting electricity generation, such as hydroelectric or biogas reactors, or projects such as no-till agriculture which reduce emissions compared to regular practices. Those wishing to offset their emissions should choose the source of GHG offsets carefully. Responsible program authorities have systems to ensure that GHG emission reductions offered for sale as offsets have been correctly and consistently quantified. Many require some form of third party verification of calculated emission reductions and removals.

A project report that is consistent with a recognized standard such as ISO 14064-2 and has had the project verified by an independent third party in accordance with a standard such as ISO 14064-3 is likely to be reporting emissions reductions and removals which are accurate and consistent.

Why Buy Offsets?

If it were physically and economically feasible to eliminate all of our GHG emissions we would have no need for offsets. In reality we can take actions to reduce our GHG emissions but modern life in Manitoba will still include some carbon footprint. Offsets allow us to pay into a system that makes GHG emissions reductions economically feasible for business and industry. Investing in the offsets market provides funding to projects such as the construction of windmills or building of storage facilities for capturing methane from manure on Manitoba farms. These projects are expensive and often can’t be afforded by the proponent unless they can generate additional income by selling offsets. In the end the atmosphere receives less GHGs than if the offsets market had not existed and that is the key outcome.

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