15 Best Carbon Offset Marketplaces (Complete 2022 List)

15 Best Carbon Offset Marketplaces (Complete 2022 List)

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Grace Smoot

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Reducing emissions from businesses is crucial given that they are responsible for over 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon offset marketplaces link businesses and carbon offset projects, which can help achieve this goal. So, we had to ask: What are the best carbon offset marketplaces for businesses?

The best carbon offset marketplaces for businesses in terms of overall impact are Puro.earth, Pledge, and Klimate.co. One Tribe specializes in nature-based offsets, Carbonx, Supercritical, and Salesforce are new marketplace additions, and South Pole and Terrapass offer traditional offset projects.

Keep reading to learn more about the best carbon offset marketplaces for businesses, how these carbon offset projects work, what their respective offsetting costs are, and what your best way would be to offset your carbon emissions. At the end of the article, we’ll also share with you what the biggest carbon offsetting limitations are and why reducing your carbon footprint is more effective than offsetting it.

Here’s What All the Best Carbon Offset Marketplaces for Businesses Have in Common

Carbon offsets are reductions in carbon emissions that are used to compensate for carbon emissions occurring elsewhere. They are measured in tons of CO2 equivalents and are bought and sold through international brokers, online retailers, and trading platforms on what is known as the global carbon offset market. 

Carbon Offset: a way for a company or person to reduce the level of carbon dioxide for which they are responsible by paying money to a company that works to reduce the total amount produced in the world, for example by planting trees”

Oxford Dictionary

When you purchase carbon offsets, it’s important that they actually make a difference in total carbon emissions. To achieve that, the following are key criteria:

  • Carbon offset projects have to be effective (different projects have different effectiveness rates)
  • Carbon offset projects have to be additional
  • Carbon offset projects have to be permanent
  • The claims from carbon offset projects have to be verifiable

(For a full overview, check out our guide on how to choose carbon offset projects that actually make a difference.)

These Are the 15 Best Carbon Offset Marketplaces for Businesses

Below are our favorite carbon offset marketplaces for businesses (you can click on their link to directly jump to their section in this article):

Carbon Offset Marketplaces for BusinessesQuick Facts
Puro.earthAbout: Puro.earth’s CORC marketplace is a site for companies to purchase carbon credits from verified projects including biochar, carbonated building elements, and bio-based construction materials.
Costs: $20-$535 per CORC dependent on the methodology
PledgeAbout: Pledge has developed a self-serve carbon marketplace offering quick and easy access to portfolios of high-quality, verified registry carbon offsets and third-party assessed removal technologies. 
Cost: Costs are determined after initial contact
Klimate.coAbout: The Klimate.co marketplace sells certified, carbon removal offsets from a variety of methods including direct air capture, forestation, enhanced weathering, and blue carbon.
Cost: $30-$900 per ton of CO2 removed dependent on the methodology
One TribeAbout: One Tribe sells certified offsets that support a variety of nature-based projects including forest conservation, regeneration, and protection.
Cost: Costs are determined after initial contact
PatchAbout: Patch’s platform gives you access to a global network of carbon credits and removal projects including enhanced weathering, concrete mineralization, kelp sequestration, and grassroots carbon regenerative grazing.
Cost: Costs are determined after initial contact
NoriAbout: Nori’s NRT marketplace is a site for companies and individuals to purchase carbon removal credits that support projects from the US croplands methodology.
Costs: Costs are determined after initial contact
PachamaAbout: The Pachama marketplace currently has 150 forest carbon projects across 14 countries. Projects include REDD, REDD+, afforestation, reforestation, and revegetation. 
Cost: Costs are determined after initial contact
CarbonxAbout: The Carbonx platform connects companies to carbon removal offset projects including direct air capture, ocean alkalinity, enhanced weathering, bio-based, and more.
Cost: Costs are determined after initial contact. 
CarbonfutureAbout: Carbonfuture uses biochar-based carbon sinks to remove and permanently store atmospheric CO2.
Cost: Costs are determined after initial contact
SupercriticalAbout: Supercritical’s platform assesses a company’s carbon footprint, develops a plan for reducing their emissions, and recommends a variety of carbon removal offsets for companies to purchase including tree-planting, enhanced weathering, direct air capture, bio-oil sequestration, and biochar.
Costs: Costs are determined after initial contact
SalesforceAbout: Salesforece’s Net Zero Marketplace is a climate action hub and trusted site for companies to purchase carbon credits from verified projects including forestry and land use, renewable energy, waste management, agriculture, household and community, chemical processes, carbon capture and storage, and industrial manufacturing.
Costs: Costs will be determined after marketplace launch
WatershedAbout: Watershed’s marketplace contains carbon removal carbon offsets from a variety of projects including kelp farming, bio-oil, ocean mineralization, biochar, mineralization in concrete, direct air capture, and Olivine weathering carbon capture.
Cost: Determined after initial contact
FrontierAbout: Frontier is an advance market commitment that purchases carbon removal from suppliers in order to guarantee future demand for the technology. Carbon offset purchases support various carbon removal technologies including direct air capture, enhanced weathering, and synthetic biology.
Cost: Determined after initial contact
TerrapassAbout: Carbon offset purchases support farm power, landfill gas capture, clean energy from wind power, and abandoned coal mine methane capture carbon offset projects.
Cost: $16.51-$17.63 per 1,000kg of CO2
South PoleAbout: Purchases support renewable energy, reforestation, efficient cookstoves, and safe water carbon offset projects
Cost: $13.46 – $39.60 per 1,000kg of CO2

Puro.earth: The World’s First B2B Marketplace

Screenshot of the puro.earth front page

Puro.earth was founded in 2019 on the realization that we have too much CO2 in our atmosphere and no business model for carbon removal with carbon net-negative technologies. They focus only on measurable carbon removal and require methods that capture and store CO2 for at least 50 years. Their mission is to mobilize the world’s economy to reward carbon net-negative emissions and reverse climate change.

“Choosing a carbon removal partner is a matter of trust”

Puro Earth

Carbon offset overview: Puro.earth’s business model revolves around the CO2 removal certificate (CORC). Every CORC represents one metric ton of CO2 removed from the atmosphere by a Puro Standard methodology, which includes: biochar, bio-based construction materials, carbonated building elements, geologically stored carbon, and woody biomass burial. 

The Puro.earth marketplace works as follows:

  1. First, Puro.earth identifies suppliers with net-negative emissions. 
  2. After rigorous verification, the net negative emissions are turned into carbon removal credits (CORCs). 
  3. Companies buy CORCs to offset carbon emissions they can not avoid or reduce. 
  4. Buyers retire the CORCs to support net zero emissions claims and/or to develop carbon neutral products or services. 

Puro.earth’s CORC marketplace currently has 32 carbon removal suppliers, 9 of which are available for online purchase. Current methodologies supported are biochar, carbonated building elements, and bio-based construction materials.

Carbon offset effectiveness: Every CORC is listed in the Puro Registry and is only issued after the carbon removal has occurred. Puro.earth also has third-party independent verifiers who audit carbon removal project facilities and issue CORCs. Lastly, rigorous verification processes are used to ensure all products and processes are truly carbon-net negative. 

Carbon offset costs: CORCs can range anywhere from $20 per CORC to $535 per CORC, depending on the project methodology.

How to get your carbon offsets: Visit the Puro.earth CORC marketplace website to view and purchase your CORCs. Or, you can buy future CORCs from projects in development through advanced market commitments and Pre-CORCs.

Pledge: Transparent High-Quality Climate Action in Minutes

Screenshot of the pledge front page

Pledge was founded on the belief that technology can be key in the fight against climate change. They built a platform in response to the problem that regulators, consumers, and business partners often don’t know where to start when it comes to reducing their carbon footprint. Their mission is to provide best-in-class tools and infrastructure to help businesses to become more climate aware and accelerate a transition to Net Zero.

“Access high-quality offsets with unprecedented ease and transparency.”

Pledge

Carbon offset overview: Pledge has developed a self-serve carbon marketplace offering quick and easy access to portfolios of high-quality, verified registry carbon offsets and third-party assessed removal technologies. There are no minimum volume requirements, and upon purchase you receive a certificate for proof of purchase. 

Carbon offset effectiveness: Pledge has partnered with projects that are part of recognized registries and that are third party verified by those including the Verified Carbon Standard, Gold Standard, American Carbon Registry and the Climate Action Reserve. You can track and trace your orders and will receive a unique certificate as proof of purchase.

Carbon offset costs: Sign up first to view their portfolio of high-quality carbon offsets.

How to get your carbon offsets: Visit their website and sign up today to purchase your carbon offsets.

Klimate.co: A Platform for High-Quality Carbon Removal

Screenshot of the Klimate.co front page

Klimate.co was founded in 2020 on the realization that a lot of money is being wasted on bad carbon offsets. So, they made it their purpose to help companies permanently remove their unavoidable CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. Their mission is to accelerate carbon removal technologies and empower companies to meet their net zero targets.

“Help scale the global carbon removal industry”

Klimate.co

Project overview: Klimate.co is a carbon offset marketplace that focuses on the following carbon removal methods: direct air capture, bio-oil, enhanced weathering, ocean blue carbon, biochar, soil sequestration, forestation, coastal blue carbon, and BECCS. Some of their active projects currently include Climeworks direct air capture, Nori soil sequestration, Running Tide ocean blue carbon, and Taking Root forestation.

Carbon offset effectiveness: Carbon removal projects offered through Klimate.co’s website adhere to several of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and follow certain certification standards, such as Verra.  Klimate.co also analyzes the projects by evaluating their additionality, permanence, environmental benefits, and social benefits. 

Carbon offset costs: Costs are dependent on the type of carbon removal. Prices can range anywhere from $30 (soil sequestration) to $900 (direct air capture) per ton of CO2 removed. 

How to get your carbon offsets: You can visit their website to view available carbon offset projects or book a demo with a climate strategist to learn more. You can also send them a message for any other questions.

One Tribe: Specialists in High-Grade Nature-Based Offsets

Screenshot of the TR1BE front page

One Tribe was launched in 2019 and specializes in funding and developing nature-based solutions to climate change. To date they have helped protect over 78 million trees, store over 7 million tons of carbon, and remove 10 million car emissions. Their mission is to protect trees and our planet for future generations while promoting climate action to businesses and their customers.

“Rainforests are the planet’s lungs, we fund the protection of them!”

One Tribe

Project overview: One Tribe supports a variety of nature-based projects including those involving forest conservation, regeneration, and protection. One Tribe’s platform connects businesses to rainforest protection charities. Sales on the platform go towards protecting the rainforests and the biodiversity found there. The charities can then use the money to fund projects that protect the land. 

Carbon offset effectiveness: One Tribe’s carbon offsets are certified by industry-leading standards including the Verified Carbon Standard, Gold Standard, American Carbon Registry and the Climate Action Reserve to help ensure transparency and quality in the creation, quantification, and verification of offset projects. When you purchase carbon offsets with One Tribe, you also receive a live certified carbon impact page which shows the impact you are having, in real time. 

Carbon offset costs: Costs are determined after initial contact.

How to get your carbon offsets: Visit their website and speak to a member of the One Tribe team to get your carbon offsets.

Patch: Delivering Trusted Climate Action

Screenshot of the Patch front page

Patch was founded in order to help businesses focus on decarbonizing their operations and compensating for their unavoidable emissions. Their platform is straightforward and user-friendly so you can take action to neutralize your carbon footprint. Their mission is to reach giga-ton scale carbon sequestration.

“The platform that powers climate action.”

Patch

Carbon offset overview: Patch’s platform gives you access to a global network of carbon credits and removals. There are over 150 projects involving nature-based solutions and carbon removal technologies to choose from. Examples of projects include enhanced weathering, concrete mineralization, kelp sequestration, and grassroots carbon regenerative grazing.

Carbon offset effectiveness: All of Patch’s projects are vetted and verified by recognized third-parties

Carbon offset costs: Costs are determined after contacting a representative.

How to get your carbon offsets: Visit their website to request access and get your carbon offsets.

Nori: Own, Track, and Showcase Verified Carbon Removal

Screenshot of the Nori front page

Nori was founded in 2017 as a platform seeking to make it easy to fund carbon removal activities. They have since expanded to offer over 17 carbon removal projects which have removed more than 117 thousand tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. Their mission is to create a marketplace for carbon removal so that we can repair our climate and fund a better future.

“Reverse climate change with the most transparent carbon removal marketplace”

Nori

Carbon offset overview: The currency of the Nori marketplace is the Nori Carbon Removal Tonne (NRT), which represents one tonne (1,000kg) of removed CO2 stored for a minimum of ten years. 

The Nori marketplace works as follows

  1. Suppliers first must register their carbon removal project with Nori. 
  2. A third-party carbon quantification tool then estimates the amount of carbon removal and an independent third-party verifies the data. 
  3. Nori then uses the carbon removal estimates generated by the carbon quantification tool to create a certain number of NRT’s for a project. 
  4. Buyers can then purchase NRTs directly from suppliers in Nori’s online marketplace.

The Nori marketplace currently supports projects from the US croplands methodology, with new methodologies being roadmapped.

Carbon offset effectiveness: Suppliers must commit to annually reporting carbon removal data for at least 10 years, and independent third-parties (i.e. Validus, SCS Global Services, Aster Global Environmental Solutions) quantify carbon removal and verify carbon removal project data. Their public registry allows for transparency and prevents double counting of NRTs. 

Carbon offset costs: For NRT pricing information, visit their website. Nori also charges an additional 15% transaction fee to sustain the marketplace.

How to get your carbon offsets: Visit Nori’s website to buy NRTs now or sign up for an NRT subscription. For purchases over 10,000 NRTs, schedule a call with them first.

Pachama: Harnessing Remote Sensing and AI to Restore Nature

Screenshot of the Pachama market place

Pachama began when co-founder Diego saw how much of the Amazon rainforest was cleared due to deforestation and realized the potential of forests to solve climate change. Their name is derived from the Mother Earth goddess for the indigenous people of South America, and their mission is to protect ecosystems, restore forests, and improve carbon markets.

“Remove Carbon. Restore Nature.”

Pachama

Carbon offset overview: Taking action with Pachama is as easy as three steps: create your organization, purchase your carbon credits, and share your impact. The Pachama marketplace currently has 150 forest carbon projects across 14 countries. Projects include REDD, REDD+, afforestation, reforestation, and revegetation. 

Carbon offset effectiveness: Each of Pachama’s projects are vetted by Pachama’s technology and forest scientists to ensure it reduces carbon, protects wildlife, and supports local communities. They are also certified by a top third-party standard group including the Verified Carbon Standard, Gold Standard, American Carbon Registry and the Climate Action Reserve. Pachama has partnered with brands including Salesforce, Shopify, and Workday.

Carbon offset costs: Costs are determined after initial contact.

How to get your carbon offsets: Visit their website to create your organization and purchase your carbon offsets. 

Carbonx: Providing Permanent Carbon Credits

Screenshot of the carbonx.world front page

Carbonx was founded in 2022 and is a platform connecting companies to verified carbon offset credits. They focus solely on permanent carbon removal, because temporary removal is not enough to combat climate change. Their mission is to minimize companies’ risks while maximizing their climate impact.

“Achieve real net-zero with the carbonˣ removal pool”

carbonx

Project overview: Carbonx recently received financing for their Carbonx platform, which connects companies to carbon removal offset projects including direct air capture, ocean alkalinity, enhanced weathering, bio-based, and more. With their standards, you only pay for high-quality, certified, verifiable offset credits. 

Carbon offset effectiveness: All Carbonx carbon offset credits are permanent, additional, net-negative, and verifiable. Their team researches, monitors, and leverages access to high-quality offset credits. Carbonx focuses solely on carbon removal that offers at least 1,000 years of storage

Carbon offset costs: Costs are determined after initial contact.

How to get your carbon offsets: Visit the Carbonx website and contact a representative to get your carbon offsets.

Carbonfuture: Biochar-Based Carbon Removal

Screenshot of the Carbonfuture front page

Carbonfuture is a German-based company that was founded as an end-to-end platform for companies to participate in removing carbon from our atmosphere. They specifically focus on carbon removal via biochar, and their mission is carbon removal in the gigaton range. 

“Emit less and remove the rest”

Carbonfuture

Carbon offset overview: Carbonfuture uses biochar-based carbon sinks to remove and permanently store atmospheric CO2. The basis of the Carbonfuture marketplace is the Carbonfuture Carbon Sink Credit (CCSC), which represents the removal of 1 ton of CO₂ over a period of 100 years. Active biochar projects include those in northern and western Europe, northern America, and Eastern Africa.

Carbon offset effectiveness: Carbonfuture’s projects are held to high standards including third-party methodology, certification, and auditing. To prevent double-counting, each Carbonfuture sink is end-to-end documented in the blockchain-based registry and gets its own certificate.

Carbon offset costs: Costs are determined after initial contact.

How to get your carbon offsets: Book a meeting with a Carbonfuture representative today to get your carbon offsets.

Supercritical: Net Zero Solutions for Tech Firms

Screenshot of the Supercritical front page

Supercritical is a startup founded in 2021 that exclusively sells carbon removal credits, because the planet doesn’t have time for anything less. Their technology allows you to measure, reduce, and remove carbon in a matter of days. Their mission is to help businesses get to net zero and to provide access to high quality, permanent carbon removal offsets. 

“Create a net zero plan in days, not months.”

Supercritical

Carbon offset overview: Supercritical’s platform assesses a company’s carbon footprint, develops a plan for reducing their emissions, and recommends a variety of carbon removal offsets for companies to purchase. Supercritical offers a variety of carbon removal options including tree-planting, enhanced weathering, direct air capture, bio-oil sequestration, and biochar.

Carbon offset effectiveness: Supercritical only sells high-quality, permanent, and vetted carbon removal offsets.

Carbon offset costs: Costs are determined after contacting a representative.

How to get your carbon offsets: To learn more about what Supercritical offers, book a demo with them today.

Salesforce: A Net Zero Marketplace

Screenshot of the salesforce net zero marketplace

Salesforce is a company that makes a host of cloud-based softwares designed to help businesses achieve success. Over 150,000 companies have partnered with Salesforce and utilize Customer 360, their suite of products developed to unite all aspects of a business. Their mission is to create meaningful connections between companies and their customers. 

“One climate action hub. Open to all.”

Salesforce

Carbon offset overview: Salesforce has developed Net Zero Marketplace, a climate action hub and trusted site for companies to purchase carbon credits. The marketplace’s goal is to provide a seamless e-commerce experience for organizations to find innovative offset projects and connect with ecopreneurs around the world. Upon launching, the marketplace will offer forestry and land use, renewable energy, waste management, agriculture, household and community, chemical processes, carbon capture and storage, and industrial manufacturing carbon offsets that they have purchased from trusted organizations including, but not limited to, South Pole, Native, Cloverly, and Pachama

Carbon offset effectiveness: Salesforce has partnered with trusted, industry-leading, independent third-party carbon credit providers and raters to provide quality projects and create a transparent carbon offset marketplace. 

Carbon offset costs: Pricing information can be obtained after the marketplace goes live. Upon launch, the marketplace will only be open to organizations based in the US with the goal being to expand to additional regions in the future.

How to get your carbon offsets: Visit the Net Zero Marketplace website and sign up to be the first to know when the marketplace goes live. 

Watershed: Decarbonize Your Supply Chain

Screenshot of the Watershed front page

Watershed was founded to help businesses implement rigorous climate programs that reduce their carbon footprint. Their mission is build up the tools that businesses need to cut carbon, thereby accelerating global decarbonization.

“Everything you need to run a world class climate program.”

Watershed

Project overview: Watershed’s solution allows you to measure, reduce, remove, and report your businesses’ carbon emissions. Their carbon offset marketplace only contains carbon removal carbon offsets. Project themes include kelp farming carbon removal, bio-oil sequestration, ocean mineralization sequestration, biochar carbon removal, mineralization in concrete, direct air capture, and Olivine weathering carbon capture.

Carbon offset effectiveness: Watershed only supports permanent carbon removal, and all projects are vetted by the Watershed team.

Carbon offset costs: Costs are determined after initial contact.

How to get your carbon offsets: You can visit Watershed’s website to request a demo with a team representative and to learn more about their carbon removal offsets.

Frontier: An Advance Market Commitment to Accelerate Carbon Removal

Screenshot of the Frontier front page

Frontier is an advance market commitment (AMC) launched in 2022 by founders Stripe, Alphabet, Shopify, Meta, and McKinsey Sustainability. Their mission is to purchase $925 million of carbon removal (in tons of CO2) between 2022-2030 to speed up its development and guarantee future demand for the technology.

“Carbon removal needs a bold assist.”

Frontier

Project overview: Frontier acts as a mediator between buyers and sellers by vetting suppliers to facilitate carbon removal purchases. Early-stage suppliers enter into low-volume prepurchases, and larger suppliers enter into offtake agreements to purchase carbon removal when delivered. Frontier’s carbon offset portfolio contains carbon removal methods including direct air capture, enhanced weathering, and synthetic biology. Example projects include a solar-powered direct air capture system in Australia, using algae to capture carbon in the United States, and using electricity to capture carbon from the air in Israel. 

Carbon offset effectiveness: Frontier chooses carbon removal solutions that store carbon permanently (>1,000 years), result in net CO2 reduction, are additional, and are verifiable.

Carbon offset costs: Costs are determined after initial contact.

How to get your carbon offsets: Visit Frontier’s webpage to get in touch with a representative.

Terrapass: Carbon Offsets for Individuals and Businesses

Screenshot of the terrapass front page

Terrapass is an organization that has been providing carbon offsets to individuals and businesses since 2004. In 2020, Terrapass customers offset roughly the same amount of carbon as planting 7 million trees. Their mission is to fight climate change by reducing as many carbon emissions as possible via the use of education, online tools, carbon offsets, and renewable energy. 

“Restore the balance”

Terrapass

Carbon offset overview: Terrapass has many options for both individuals and businesses looking to offset their carbon footprint. Individuals can purchase a personal carbon offset, flight carbon offset, ecotourist bundle, wedding carbon offset, or a gift carbon offset. Businesses can purchase business carbon offsets, Green-e Climate® Certified Terrapass Carbon Offsets, flight carbon offsets, or a gift carbon offsets. Purchases help fund carbon offset projects including farm power, landfill gas capture, clean energy from wind power, and abandoned coal mine methane capture

Carbon offset effectiveness: Terrapass only purchases from project types that use widely accepted methods for carbon emission reduction (i.e. methane capture/destruction, HFC/ODS industrial gas destruction, renewable energy, and forestry). They also only purchase carbon offsets that have been generated within the last 5 years and use the Verified Carbon Standard, Gold Standard, American Carbon Registry, and the Climate Action Reserve to help ensure transparency and quality in the creation, quantification, and verification of offset projects.

Carbon offset costs: It costs approximately $16.51-$17.63 per 1,000kg of CO2 for individuals, and $16.99 per 1,000kg of CO2 for businesses.

How to get your carbon offsets: Visit the Terrapass website to purchase your individual and business carbon offsets.

South Pole: Providing the Tools to Achieve a Low-Carbon Reality

Screenshot of the south pole front page

Since 2006, South Pole has been working with businesses and governments across the globe to reduce greenhouse gas emissions via verified carbon offset projects. Their mission is to thoroughly understand climate risks and opportunities in specific sectors as well as the highest emission reduction standards in order to explore decarbonization pathways.

“From ambition to action”

South Pole

Project overview: South pole has developed over 700 climate action projects worldwide that adhere to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. They support CO2 emission reduction projects involving renewable energy, reforestation, efficient cookstoves, and safe water. Examples of some projects include hydropower in China, efficient cookstoves in Rwanda, and reforestation in Guatemala.

Carbon offset costs: CO2 emission reduction projects can cost anywhere from $13.46 – $39.60 per 1,000kg of CO2 depending on the project. 

How to get your carbon offsets: Visit South Pole’s website to find their CO2 emission reduction projects, pricing information, and project descriptions.

How to Choose Carbon Offset Projects Actually Make a Difference

The following information is a summary for you based on our full guide: “How to Buy Carbon Offsets That Actually Make a Difference

Purchase carbon offset projects with high effectiveness rates. The offset programs in order of most to least effective are:

  • Direct CO2 removal: Machines remove CO2 directly from the air. Effective at reducing emissions in the short and long-term because they are additional and permanent.
  • Renewable energy: Investing in projects that build and maintain renewable energy sites globally. There is no additionality because renewables are becoming a greater share of our energy mix, with or without the help of offsets.
  • Energy efficiency improvements: The creation of products or systems that use less energy than conventional systems to perform the same task. However, if products are replaced too quickly, the amount of CO2 required to produce the new product would exceed the amount of CO2 saved with the new product.
  • Carbon sequestration: The long-term storage of carbon via forestry practices. Not an effective way to reduce emissions in the long-term because there is no guaranteed permanence.

If – and only if – they are both additional and permanent, carbon offsets can help reduce your overall GHG emissions to balance off your personal carbon footprint to fight climate change – at least in the short term. But they can be much more effective if they meet certain key criteria and project standards.

Here are key criteria to look for in a carbon offset program:

  • A clearly defined protocol that determines which types of projects are eligible and how emission reductions will be measured
  • Independent third-party verification of compliance with the protocol
  • Registration of offsets in an offset registry, which tracks each credit with a unique serial number to ensure it is only used once 

If used correctly, carbon offsets can provide environmental, economic, and social benefits that go beyond reducing carbon emissions. They have the potential to instigate meaningful environmental change and begin to reverse some of the effects of climate change. 

Carbon offset project standards assure transparency and quality in the creation, quantification, and verification of offset projects. This way you can ensure that the project is actually reducing CO2 emissions. The following are recognized carbon offset standards:

  • Verified Carbon Standard (VCS): Considered the world’s leading voluntary GHG program, with 1700+ projects having removed 630+ million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. Examples of projects include hydropower in Turkey, forest conservation in Peru, and landfill gas capture in China.

Choosing carbon offset projects from any of the above project standard registries helps ensure that your project is verified and that it actually reduces CO2 emissions.

What Are the Biggest Carbon Offsetting Limitations

In fact, there are 9 main carbon offsetting limitations that can make the current voluntary carbon market controversial and lead to confusion, inconsistencies, and a general distrust of the system. Have a look at the quick summary table below.

Carbon Offsetting LimitationQuick Facts
#1: You don’t reduce your own carbon footprintWhen you purchase a carbon offset, you are paying someone else to cut their emissions so you don’t have to cut your own emissions.
#2: Carbon offsets do not work at the core issue of reducing CO2 emissionsGlobal warming is still occurring at an accelerated rate because offsetting CO2 emissions does not cut CO2 emissions at the source, it only mitigates emissions.
#3: Carbon offsetting only reduces CO2 if the projects are additional and permanentIf carbon offset projects are not additional and permanent, they can make climate change worse because they are not offsetting any carbon.
#4: “Poorer” countries are paid to offset carbon while the “rich” countries continue to emitThe richest of the world emit the majority of the world’s carbon. Offsets are just licenses to pollute with the benefit of aiding those in developing countries.
#5: Different projects have different effectiveness ratesThe varying levels of effectiveness of carbon offset programs make it difficult to choose one that actually reduces emissions. The most effective offset programs are renewable energy programs, followed by energy efficiency improvements, carbon sequestration, and aviation offset programs. 
#6: CO2 offsets are only realized at the end of project durations If a carbon offset program is not carried out until the end, then we cannot reap the program’s benefits. For example, planting trees is a common offset program that is only effective if those planted trees are protected during their life span for the carbon benefits to be realized. 
#7: There are not enough offsets for all CO2 emissionsWe emit far more CO2 than we can offset because of carbon sink (e.g., atmosphere, forests, soil, ocean) limitations.
#8: Not all offset projects get realizedOf the credits for 1 billion tons of CO2 listed on registries, only about 300-400 million tons of CO2 offsets actually get realized. 
#9: Carbon offsetting projects are often used as greenwashingInvesting in non-verified credits, not prioritizing in-house emissions reductions, and double-counting carbon credits are methods of greenwashing. Also, companies may advertise a specific program, but it may be just for public attention instead of actually reducing emissions.
Related: You can check out the full article here: “What Are the Biggest Carbon Offsetting Limitations? (All 9 Explained)

Why Reducing Your Carbon Footprint Is More Effective Than Offsetting It

The main argument against carbon offsets is that they don’t really reduce overall emissions. Instead of substituting offsetting carbon emissions, we should instead cut the emissions directly at the source. Basically, if we stop emissions from getting into the atmosphere in the first place, we won’t have to worry about offsetting. But have we done this? Have we cut emissions directly at the source? The data says no. 

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered the largest decrease in energy-related carbon emissions since World War II, a decrease of 2 billion tons. However, emissions rebounded quickly at the end of 2020, with levels in December ending 60 million tons higher than those in December 2019. This indicates that the earth is still warming at an accelerated rate, and not enough is being done to implement clean energy practices. 

Illustration of annual CO2 emissions globally
Our World in Data: Annual total CO2 emissions

When you buy a carbon offset, you are paying someone else to cut their emissions so you don’t have to cut your own emissions. This is why offsetting alone will not be enough to reduce global carbon emissions.

Carbon offsets are a good place to start if you want to get into the carbon-emission reduction game, but in order to be effective in the long term, we must not rely on them solely. Cutting emissions from the source and then offsetting the remainder is the best way to reduce our carbon footprint and provide the highest environmental benefits. If we fail to cut emissions first, we will fill up our carbon sinks and render them unusable. Preventing carbon emissions rather than reacting once they are already emitted is the best way to reduce overall emissions.

Carbon offsets reduce GHG emissions from coal, oil, and natural gas. Reducing your consumption of these, in turn, reduces your carbon footprint, which has huge impacts on environmental, economic, and public health. A reduced carbon footprint due to lower GHG emissions can mitigate the effects of climate change, improve public health, boost the economy, and maintain plant and animal diversity.

  • Public health: Reducing GHG emissions lessens the likelihood and severity of extreme weather events, improves air and water quality, maintains biodiversity, and supports a healthy food supply.
  • Economics: Reducing GHG boosts the economy, especially when it becomes economically rewarding to innovate solutions that help protect our planet, fight climate change, and are based on clean energy.
  • Plant and animal diversity: Protecting biodiversity protects human health because many plants and animals are used in modern medicines

Carbon offsets have the potential to instigate meaningful environmental change, but to make the greatest impact we must understand both their benefits AND drawbacks. 

Related: You can find out all about it in our article “Can You Really Offset Your Carbon Footprint? Here Are the Facts

Final Thoughts

Puro.earth, Pledge, Klimate.co, One Tribe, South Pole, Patch, Nori, Pachama, Carbonfuture, Terrapass, Salesforce, Carbonx, and Supercritical have the best carbon offset marketplaces for businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint. They are third-party verified, permanent, additional, use the leading carbon offset standards, and adhere to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

But for all of the good carbon offsets can instigate, they should not be seen as the only solution to climate change. They are effective at reducing CO2 in the short-term, but in the long term they fail to reduce CO2 enough. When used in conjunction with direct CO2 reduction measures, carbon offsetting can be much more effective. We should reduce our own carbon footprint as much as possible first before relying on offsets.

Stay impactful,

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Grace Smoot

Grace loves to research and write about all things related to climate action and sustainability. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology and works as an Environmental Survey Technician. Outside of work, she loves to work out, play soccer, and take her dog for long walks.

Did you know that the internet is a huge polluter of the environment? But fortunately not this site. This site is powered by renewable energy and all hosting-related CO2 emissions are offset by three times as many renewable energy certificates. Find out all about it here.

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