Carbon Avoidance Offsets: All 6 Pros and 4 Cons Explained
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Hey fellow impactful ninja ?
You may have noticed that Impactful Ninja is all about providing helpful information to make a positive impact on the world and society. And that we love to link back to where we found all the information for each of our posts.
Most of these links are informational-based for you to check out their primary sources with one click.
But some of these links are so-called "affiliate links" to products that we recommend.
First and foremost, because we believe that they add value to you. For example, when we wrote a post about the environmental impact of long showers, we came across an EPA recommendation to use WaterSense showerheads. So we linked to where you can find them. Or, for many of our posts, we also link to our favorite books on that topic so that you can get a much more holistic overview than one single blog post could provide.
And when there is an affiliate program for these products, we sign up for it. For example, as Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.
First, and most importantly, we still only recommend products that we believe add value for you.
When you buy something through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission - but at no additional costs to you.
And when you buy something through a link that is not an affiliate link, we won’t receive any commission but we’ll still be happy to have helped you.
When we find products that we believe add value to you and the seller has an affiliate program, we sign up for it.
When you buy something through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra costs to you).
And at this point in time, all money is reinvested in sharing the most helpful content with you. This includes all operating costs for running this site and the content creation itself.
You may have noticed by the way Impactful Ninja is operated that money is not the driving factor behind it. It is a passion project of mine and I love to share helpful information with you to make a positive impact on the world and society. However, it's a project in that I invest a lot of time and also quite some money.
Eventually, my dream is to one day turn this passion project into my full-time job and provide even more helpful information. But that's still a long time to go.
Carbon avoidance is a process that can strengthen our natural carbon sinks and help us transition away from fossil fuels. The various pros and cons vary based on the specific type of avoidance. So, we had to ask: What are carbon avoidance offsets really, and could they help us mitigate climate change?
Carbon avoidance offsets are a proactive, cost-effective method of preventing carbon emissions. They protect existing carbon sinks and help transition away from fossil fuels; however, they can lack standardization and monitoring and are not yet scaled to compensate for our global carbon emissions.
Keep reading to find out all about what carbon avoidance offsets are, how they work, how effective and efficient they are, what their pros and cons are, and what the best ones are. At the end of the article, we’ll also share with you how carbon avoidance offsets can help mitigate climate change and what better alternatives to them are.
The Big Picture of Carbon Avoidance Offsets
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
“Avoidance: not doing something; preventing something from existing or happening”Oxford Dictionary
Carbon offsets that are commonly classified as carbon avoidance measures include:
- Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+)
- Waste Management
- Energy efficiency
Purchasing carbon avoidance offsets funds carbon emission reduction projects that prevent CO2 from entering the atmosphere. It is a proactive, rather than a reactive, way of dealing with carbon emissions.
|6 Pros of Carbon Avoidance Offsets||4 Cons of Carbon Avoidance Offsets|
|Carbon avoidance offsets are proactive||Carbon avoidance offsets can lack additionality|
|Carbon avoidance offsets can protect existing carbon sinks||Carbon avoidance offsets can lack standardization and monitoring|
|Carbon avoidance offsets can be relatively cost-effective||Carbon avoidance offsets are not yet scaled to compensate for our global waste emissions|
|Carbon avoidance offsets can bolster energy security and help transition away from fossil fuels||Carbon avoidance offsets do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashing|
|Carbon avoidance offsets can reduce methane emissions and other forms of pollution|
|Carbon avoidance offsets allow us to reduce carbon emissions in ways we wouldn’t be able to accomplish individually|
What Are 6 Pros of Carbon Avoidance Offsets
Carbon avoidance offsets are a proactive, relatively cost-effective way of dealing with CO2 emissions which can protect existing carbon sinks, bolster energy security and help transition away from fossil fuels, and reduce various forms of pollution. Avoidance offsets also allow us to reduce carbon emissions in ways we wouldn’t be able to accomplish individually.
Pro #1: Carbon Avoidance Offsets are Proactive
Carbon avoidance offsets cut emissions at their source, making them a proactive way of dealing with emissions.Carbon Avoidance Offset Pro #1
Carbon avoidance is a proactive, rather than reactive, way of dealing with emissions. By eliminating emissions at the source, we cut down on fossil fuel (e.g., coal, oil, and natural gas) usage.
The main difference between carbon avoidance and carbon removal, the other main method of carbon reduction, is that carbon avoidance seeks to prevent carbon from being emitted in the first place. Whereas carbon removal removes the carbon that has already been emitted from our atmosphere.
In short, carbon avoidance cuts emissions at the source, seeking to prevent carbon from being emitted in the first place.
Pro #2: Carbon Avoidance Offsets Can Protect Existing Carbon Sinks
Carbon avoidance offsets involving REDD+, energy efficiency, and agriculture protect forest and grassland ecosystems and their ability to act as carbon sinks.Carbon Avoidance Offset Pro #2
Carbon can be stored in vegetation (forests), soils, and oceans, which are commonly referred to as our carbon sinks.
“Carbon Sink: a forest, ocean, or other natural environment viewed in terms of its ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”Oxford Dictionary
REDD+ offsets protect rainforests, and rainforests play a vital role in regulating our climate. The roughly 3 billion acres of rainforest found on our planet are capable of absorbing 2.4 billion tons of CO2 every year. They help absorb some of the carbon emissions we burn from fossil fuels and prevent them from entering our atmosphere.
In addition, energy-efficient cookstoves and water filtration projects reduce the demand for wood, which in turn reduces the need to cut down trees. This is important in the fight against climate change because globally, forests act as a carbon sink capable of absorbing a net 7.6 billion tons (bt) of CO2 per year.
Lastly, avoided grassland conversion projects protect grassland biomes, which are known to have dark, fertile, nutrient-rich soils due to the decay of branched, grass roots. When grasslands become degraded, the soils re-emit carbon, which is converted to CO2 in the atmosphere. Protecting these ecosystems prevents the release of carbon.
In short, REDD+, energy efficiency, and some agricultural offsets can reinforce our terrestrial carbon sinks, which are capable of absorbing billions of tons of CO2 every year.
Pro #3: Carbon Avoidance Offsets Can Be Relatively Cost-Effective
Carbon avoidance offsets involving REDD+, waste management, energy efficiency, and agriculture are some of the most cost-effective methods of carbon emission reduction.Carbon Avoidance Offset Pro #3
Coupling REDD+, waste management, energy efficiency, and agricultural offset projects with carbon offsets could help finance the arduous task of reducing atmospheric CO2 levels. Especially since these offsets are typically more cost-effective than other categories of offsets.
- Waste management offsets from leading providers (e.g., Carbonfund, Terrapass, and Native Energy) cost less than $20 per ton of CO2 offset.
- REDD+ carbon offsets from leading providers (e.g., REDD.plus, Pachama, and Wildlife Works) cost less than $30 per ton of CO2 offset.
- Energy-efficiency offsets from leading providers (e.g., Carbonfund, Ecologi, myclimate) cost less than $40 per ton of CO2 offset.
- Agricultural offsets from some leading providers (e.g., Vi Agroforestry, One Tree Planted, and Terrapass) cost less than $40 per ton of CO2 offset.
In short, carbon avoidance offsets involving REDD+, waste management, energy efficiency, and agriculture are relatively cost-effective when compared to other methods of carbon emission reduction.
Pro #4: Carbon Avoidance Offsets Can Bolster Energy Security And Help Transition Away From Fossil Fuels
Carbon avoidance offsets involving waste management and energy efficiency can help reduce reliance on biomass and fossil fuels, leading to increased energy security and energy independence.Carbon Avoidance Offset Pro #4
Waste management offsets such as landfill gas conversion to energy use waste gasses to generate renewable electricity. And energy-efficient mechanisms use less energy than traditional mechanisms to perform the same task.
Both types of projects reduce overall energy demand, which in turn reduces reliance on imports of biomass fuels or fossil fuels (e.g., coal, oil, and natural gas).
For example, energy-efficient cookstoves and water filtration projects provide uninterrupted access to energy and clean water, negating the need for a constant supply of woodfuels. And landfill gas capture and conversion to energy mechanisms use surplus waste gasses to generate electricity and steam, reducing the need to import fossil fuels.
Being able to produce your own energy without relying on other entities increases energy security, which is reliable, affordable access to fuels and energy sources. And increased energy security fosters energy independence, which can aid in the transition away from fossil fuels and towards lower carbon options.
In short, carbon avoidance offsets involving waste management and energy efficiency bolster energy security and can foster energy independence.
Pro #5: Carbon Avoidance Offsets Can Reduce Methane Emissions and Other Forms of Pollution
Carbon avoidance offsets involving waste management, energy efficiency, and agriculture reduce methane (CH4) emissions and combat land, air, and water pollution.Carbon Avoidance Offset Pro #5
Waste management and farm power agricultural offsets can reduce CH4 emissions via CH4 capture, combustion, or conversion to energy projects
Some of the most common waste management and farm power agricultural carbon offset projects involve landfill or livestock gas capture, combustion, or conversion to energy.
CO2 and CH4 comprise 90-98% of landfill gasses, and agriculture is the predominant source of methane (CH4) emissions, with livestock alone accounting for approximately 32% of human-caused CH4 emissions.
CH4 is 25 times more potent than CO2 at trapping heat in our atmosphere, which exacerbates global warming. Both waste management and energy efficiency offset projects prevent CH4 from entering our atmosphere, and because CH4 is more potent than CO2, removing it is a quick way to slow the rate of global warming, at least in the short term.
Waste management and energy efficiency carbon offsets can also target land, air, or water pollution, depending on the project.
Every year, we contaminate the biosphere by dumping over 2 billion tons of waste including millions of tons of electronic waste, hazardous chemicals, food, and plastic. Waste management carbon offset projects can help reduce pollution because they aim to reduce the amount of waste entering our landfills and ecosystems.
Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 3-4 million premature deaths occur annually due to smoke generated by inefficient cooking, heating, and lighting mechanisms. When made to be more energy efficient, these mechanisms can reduce the amount of total air pollution, improving overall air quality and human health as a result.
In short, carbon avoidance offsets involving waste management, energy efficiency, and agriculture can reduce various types of pollution including CH4 and land/air/water pollution.
Pro #6: Carbon Avoidance Offsets Can Help Offset Carbon Emissions That Can’t Be Reduced Otherwise
Carbon avoidance offsets allow us to reduce carbon emissions in ways we wouldn’t be able to accomplish individually.Carbon Avoidance Offset Pro #6
We already have governmental-level policies in place to reduce carbon emissions, but carbon offsets allow us to reduce emissions from activities where sustainable alternatives are not yet widely available.
Carbon offsets are designed for situations where emissions are impossible to reduce because you can use those funds to reduce emissions in other areas. For example, we can only do so much to reduce our individual carbon footprints. Using public transportation, washing with cold water, and switching from single-use to sustainable products lowers our carbon footprint, but it does not eliminate them completely. This is where carbon avoidance offsets come into play to compensate for the remainder of our carbon emissions.
In short, carbon avoidance offsets allow us to reduce carbon emissions in ways we wouldn’t be able to accomplish individually.
What Are 4 Cons of Carbon Avoidance Offsets
Carbon avoidance offsets can lack additionality, standardization, and monitoring, and are not yet scaled to compensate for our global waste emissions. Avoidance offsets also do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashing.
Con #1: Carbon Avoidance Offsets Can Lack Additionality
Carbon avoidance offsets involving REDD+, waste management, and energy efficiency can lack additionality due to uncertainty in determining baselines and increasing demand for projects.Carbon Avoidance Offset Con #1
To be beneficial, REDD+, waste management, and energy-efficiency carbon offsets must be additional. This means the carbon emissions reductions would not have occurred without any outside interventions.
The additionality of REDD+ projects cannot be measured exactly, because determining the baseline, or the business-as-usual carbon emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation in the absence of efforts to reduce those emissions, cannot be measured exactly. Because we cannot know exactly what would happen to a specific forest in the absence of a REDD+ project, it is impossible to calculate the baseline with absolute certainty.
In addition, waste management and energy-efficiency offsets are often not additional because many projects receiving revenue now would have been built regardless.
The global waste management market is expected to grow to $2.5 billion by 2030 due to the increasing rate at which and the amount of waste we generate annually. As the market grows, there has been a push for waste management projects involving food rescue, landfill gas capture, and recycling. The large demand for waste management in general means that the infrastructure could have been built independently of waste management carbon offsets.
One of the main pros of energy efficiency is lower energy costs, which can drive market expansion. For example, since 2020, global markets have contributed approximately $1 trillion towards energy efficiency-related practices involving buildings, transportation, infrastructure, and electric vehicles. The large demand for energy-efficient practices, in general, means that the infrastructure could have been built independently of energy-efficiency carbon offsets.
In short, additionality is not guaranteed with REDD+, waste management, and energy-efficiency offsets.
Con #2: Carbon Avoidance Offsets Can Lack Standardization and Monitoring
The decentralized nature and many different types of energy-efficiency and agricultural carbon avoidance offsets can make standardization and monitoring difficult.Carbon Avoidance Offset Con #2
Unlike carbon removal, where you can track, calculate, and record a set amount of carbon being removed from the atmosphere, carbon avoidance can be difficult to quantify because it involves not putting carbon into the atmosphere.
Energy-efficient practices promote energy decentralization, where power is generated at or near locations where it will be used. And although this decreases the need to transport energy and generates environmental benefits, it can also make project standardization and monitoring difficult.
By nature, centralized solutions are easier to keep track of. But there are different standards for different types of energy-efficiency practices. Appliances, lighting, buildings, cooking, and fuels are held to different standards, making it difficult to standardize energy efficiency as one singular entity.
Agricultural emissions themselves are also difficult to measure and manage because there are hundreds of millions of farmers around the world, most of which are farming small plots of land. In order to exact change on a global scale, we would have to incorporate agricultural offset practices such as biochar, agroforestry, and methane capture on a massive scale and for hundreds of years into the future. This would be difficult to do both socially and economically.
In addition, the fact that there are multiple types of agricultural carbon offsets makes them difficult to standardize, verify, and monitor.
For example, Verra, the American Carbon Registry, and the Gold Standard all have different methodologies for biochar and biochar projects. There are also different governing organizations for biochar, including The European Biochar Certificate (EBC), The US Biochar Initiative, and The International Biochar Initiative.
In short, the decentralized nature and many different types of energy efficiency and agricultural offsets make standardization and monitoring difficult.
Con #3: Carbon Avoidance Offsets Are Not Yet Scaled To Compensate For Our Global Emissions
Waste management and agricultural carbon avoidance offsets are not yet scaled to compensate for the billions of tons of GHG we emit annually.Carbon Avoidance Offset Con #3
Carbon offsets in general are currently not sufficient to compensate for all of our carbon emissions. We emit more than 37 billion tons of carbon annually, but carbon offset credits for only ~1 billion tons of CO2 have been listed for sale on the voluntary market. The number of sellers also exceeds the number of buyers by about 600-700 million tons.
Because waste management and agricultural offsets are only a small subsection of the larger carbon offset market, they are also inadequate in terms of offsetting our global emissions.
Experts predict the world’s population will increase by 2 billion people in the next 30 years, which means the rate of waste generation and subsequent GHG emissions from waste will continue to increase. We already generate over 2 billion tons of waste including electronics (e-waste), hazardous chemicals, food, and plastic.
And in addition to the 37+ billion tons of CO2 we emit every year, we emit approximately 570 million tons of CH4, a significant amount of which comes from agriculture. As the world’s population increases, there will be more mouths to feed. Therefore, agricultural production and subsequent GHG emissions from agriculture will continue to increase.
In short, waste management and agricultural offsets occupy a small part of the carbon offset market and are not yet scaled to compensate for the billions of tons of GHGs we emit.
Con #4: Carbon Avoidance Offsets Do Not Reduce Your Own Carbon Emissions
Carbon avoidance offsets do not reduce your own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashing.Carbon Avoidance Offset Con #4
In general, one of the main limitations of carbon offsetting is that purchasing a carbon offset does not directly reduce your carbon footprint. It only makes others reduce their carbon footprint to compensate for your carbon footprint.
If emissions are only offset and not reduced from the source, this could lead to greenwashing, when the consumer is deceived into thinking they are offsetting their emissions but in reality, they are not. Companies accused of greenwashing either invest in non-verified credits, do not prioritize in-house emissions reductions, or double-count carbon credits. Or sometimes, all of the above.
In short, because carbon avoidance offsets do not reduce your own carbon emissions, they could lead to greenwashing.
How Could You Offset Your Own Carbon Footprint With Carbon Avoidance Offsets
The market for carbon offsets was small in the year 2000, but by 2010 it had already grown to represent nearly $10 billion worldwide. The voluntary carbon offset market (VCM) is where everyday consumers can purchase carbon offsets to offset their carbon emissions.
The Ecosystem Marketplace predicts the VCM can grow to $50B by the year 2050. And because carbon avoidance is a proactive, cost-effective way of dealing with carbon emissions, those offsets are predicted to make up a larger share of the market.
|Carbon Avoidance Offset Company||Quick Facts|
|Terrapass||About: Carbon offset purchases support third-party certified REDD+, waste management, and agricultural projects.|
Costs: $16.51-$17.63 per 1,000kg of CO2
|Native Energy||About: Carbon offset purchases support third-party certified REDD+, waste management, and agricultural projects.|
Costs: $18 per 1,000 kg of CO2
|Carbonfund||About: Carbon offset purchases support third-party certified REDD+, waste management, and energy-efficiency projects.|
Costs: $16.25-$17.16 per 1,000kg of CO2 for individuals, $390-$1,560 per year for small businesses, determined after initial contact for large businesses
|Ecologi||About: Carbon offset purchases support third-party certified REDD+, waste management, and energy-efficiency projects.|
Costs: $6.04 per 1,000 kg of CO2 offset
|REDD.plus||About: Carbon offset purchases support UNFCCC-verified REDD+ projects around the globe. REDD.plus is a central registry and exchange for REDD+ Result Units, a type of carbon credit. |
Costs: $16 per ton of CO2
|CoreZero||About: Purchases support waste management projects including food rescue, upcycling, waste-to-energy, and composting.|
Costs: Costs are determined after initial contact
|DelAgua||About: Purchases support the Rwandan clean cookstoves energy-efficiency carbon offset project.|
Costs: Costs are determined after initial contact
|Wildlife Works||About: Carbon offset purchases support third-party certified carbon offset projects including The Kasigau Corridor, Mai Ndombe, and Southern Cardamom REDD+ projects in Kenya, Cambodia, and Colombia respectively.|
Costs: $20 per ton of CO2
|GreenTech||About: They take plastic (e.g., plastic bottles) and sort, grind, wash, and process it into sustainable recycled flakes to make products (e.g., PET flakes, PET straps, and r-PET granules).|
Costs: $40 per 1,000kg of CO2
|South Pole||About: Carbon offset purchases support third-party certified waste management and energy-efficiency projects.|
Costs: Costs are determined after initial contact
How Can Carbon Avoidance Offsets Help Mitigate Climate Change
Climate change is a severe and long-term consequence of fossil fuel combustion. Carbon avoidance offsets can help mitigate climate change because they cut emissions at their source, which is a proactive way of dealing with carbon emissions. If left untreated, these emissions can remain in our atmosphere for tens of thousands of years and exacerbate the negative effects of climate change.
How is Climate Change Defined
Climate change is arguably the most severe, long-term global impact of fossil fuel combustion. Every year, approximately 33 billion tons (bt) of CO2 are emitted from burning fossil fuels. The carbon found in fossil fuels reacts with oxygen in the air to produce CO2.
“Climate change: changes in the earth’s weather, including changes in temperature, wind patterns and rainfall, especially the increase in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere that is caused by the increase of particular gasses, especially carbon dioxide.”Oxford Dictionary
Atmospheric CO2 fuels climate change, which results in global warming. When CO2 and other air pollutants absorb sunlight and solar radiation in the atmosphere, it traps the heat and acts as an insulator for the planet. Since the Industrial Revolution, Earth’s temperature has risen a little more than 1 degree Celsius (C), or 2 degrees Fahrenheit (F). Between 1880-1980 the global temperature rose by 0.07C every 10 years. This rate has more than doubled since 1981, with a current global annual temperature rise of 0.18C, or 0.32F, for every 10 years.
How Do Carbon Offsets Generally Help Mitigate Climate Change
Levels of carbon in our atmosphere that cause climate change have increased as a result of human emissions since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1750. The global average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today registers at over 400 parts per million. Carbon offsets can help prevent these levels from increasing even more.
When you hear the words “carbon offset”, think about the term “compensation”. Essentially, carbon offsets are reductions in GHG emissions that are used to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere.
Carbon offsets that meet key criteria and verified project standards, are additional and permanent, and are part of projects that are carried out until the end of their lifespan have the best chance of reducing carbon emissions and therefore reducing climate change.
When we offset CO2 we also slow the rate of global temperature rise, which in turn minimizes the effects of climate change.
How Do Carbon Avoidance Offsets Specifically Help Mitigate Climate Change
Carbon avoidance offsets proactively deal with CO2 emissions. Rather than removing emissions once they have already been emitted, carbon avoidance focuses on approaches that prevent CO2 from being released in the first place.
As outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, we must cut current greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. Carbon avoidance is important to meet these targets because the more we avoid carbon, the less we emit into our atmosphere.
What Are Better Alternatives to Carbon Avoidance Offsets
If used correctly, carbon avoidance offsets can provide environmental, economic, and social benefits beyond reducing carbon emissions. They have the potential to instigate meaningful environmental change and begin to reverse some of the effects of climate change.
However, we can’t let this method be a guilt-free way to reduce carbon emissions. Carbon avoidance offsets must be used in conjunction with direct carbon reduction measures because these measures directly reduce your carbon footprint.
These reduction measures don’t have to involve drastic changes either. Actions that may seem small can have a big impact because those small changes add up! You can reduce your carbon footprint in three main areas of your life: household, travel, and lifestyle.
Reduce your household carbon footprint:
- Wash with cold water: Washing clothes in cold water could reduce carbon emissions by up to 11 million tons. Approximately 90% of the energy is used to heat the water, so switching to cold saves also saves energy.
- Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs: Fluorescent bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescent ones, saving energy and thus reducing electricity demand and GHG emissions.
Reduce your travel carbon footprint:
- Fly less: Aviation accounts for around 1.9% of global carbon emissions and 2.5% of CO2. Air crafts run on jet gasoline, which is converted to CO2 when burned.
- Walk or bike when possible: The most efficient ways of traveling are walking, bicycling, or taking the train. Using a bike instead of a car can reduce carbon emissions by 75%. These forms of transportation also provide lower levels of air pollution.
Reduce your lifestyle carbon footprint:
- Switch to renewable energy sources: The six most common types of renewable energy are solar, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal, and biomass energy. They are a substitute for fossil fuels that can reduce the effects of global warming by limiting global carbon emissions and other pollutants.
- Recycle: Recycling uses less energy and deposits less waste in landfills. Less manufacturing and transportation energy costs means fewer carbon emissions generated. Less waste in landfills means less CH4 is generated.
- Switch from single-use to sustainable products: Reusing products avoids resource extraction, reduces energy use, reduces waste generation, and can prevent littering.
- Eat less meat and dairy: Meat and dairy account for 14.5% of global GHG emissions, with beef and lamb being the most carbon-intensive. Globally, we consume much more meat than is considered sustainable, and switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet could reduce emissions.
- Take shorter showers: Approximately 1.2 trillion gallons of water are used each year in the United States just for showering purposes, and showering takes up about 17% of residential water usage. The amount of water consumed and the energy cost of that consumption are directly related. The less water we use the less energy we use. And the less energy we use, the less of a negative impact we have on the environment.
Although avoidance offsets are proactive, they are still an indirect way of reducing emissions, meaning they alone will not be enough to reduce global carbon emissions significantly. Direct measures of emission reductions, such as reducing individual energy use and consumption, are better alternatives to avoidance offsets.
Carbon avoidance offsets are a proactive, relatively cost-effective way of dealing with CO2 emissions which can protect existing carbon sinks, bolster energy security and help transition away from fossil fuels, and reduce various forms of pollution. However, they can also lack additionality, standardization, and monitoring, and are not yet scaled to compensate for our global waste emissions.
Although they allow us to reduce carbon emissions in ways we wouldn’t be able to accomplish individually, they also do not reduce our own carbon emissions, which can lead to greenwashing.
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. Carbon offsetting can be much more effective when used in conjunction with direct CO2 reduction measures. We should reduce our own carbon footprint as much as possible first, and only then choose the most effective carbon avoidance offsets.
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- Edie: Carbon offsetting – How are businesses avoiding greenwashing on the road to net-zero?
- Carbon Offset Guide: Voluntary Offset Programs
- Ecosystem Marketplace: Voluntary Carbon Markets Top $1 Billion in 2021 with Newly Reported Trades
- Impactful Ninja: Best Carbon Avoidance Offsets
- CoreZero: Homepage
- DelAgua: Homepage
- GreenTech: Homepage
- South Pole: Homepage
- World Nuclear Association: Carbon Emissions from Electricity
- Natural Resources Defense Council: Global Warming 101
- myclimate: What does “net zero emissions” mean?
- Natural Resources Defense Council: Carbon Offsets 101
- Terrapass: Carbon Offset Projects
- Carbon Offset Guide: Permanence
- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: Paris Climate Agreement
- The Ocean Foundation: Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
- Energy Information Administration: Renewable Energy Explained
- Energy Star: Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) and Mercury
- Our World in Data: Where in the world do people have the highest CO2 emissions from flying?
- Zero Waste Europe: Reusable vs Single Use Packaging
- Carbonbrief: Interactive – What is the climate impact of eating meat and dairy?
- Stop Waste: Recycling and Climate Protection
- Impactful Ninja: Is Taking Long Showers Bad for the Environment?
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Showerheads
- Impactful Ninja: 4 Main Reasons Why Reducing Your Carbon Footprint is Important