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How to choose Carbon Offsets – guidance from CHOICE, the Carbon Offset Guide and the National Standard

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Airplane (Flikr/epSos.de)

If you’re moving towards being carbon neutral the first step is to avoid or reduce carbon emissions. But there are some activities where that’s not possible. So if you’re clicking the ‘plant a tree’ button when buying your next flight, or offsetting your petrol consumption with renewable energy offsets, what do you need to know?  

Carbon Offset Guide, Australia (CAGA)

Do you have an offset provider in mind? CAGA is an independent directory of carbon offset providers developed by Low Carbon Australia and the University of Queensland’s Carbon lab. It’s a great resource for you to check out the accreditations of the provider, the cost of the emissions and where your money is going. CAGA also has a transaction model to simpllify the process of carbon offsets for first time users and a link to a number of emissions calculators to help you know how much to spend.

(CHOICE) Carbon Offsets: Who should you trust when it comes to buying carbon offsets?

Consumer organisation CHOICE responded to its members’ interest in carbon offsets as many had voiced concerns about whether or not schemes could be trusted. After speaking to a number of experts their investigation concluded that stringent standards mean the majority of providers are now legit.

According to Professor Martijn Wilder, “there used to be more rogue traders, but there are very few these days as the market is much more regulated and buyers are more educated. There are formal approval bodies and formal registry systems, there is greater government regulation and the ACCC has been active in enforcement.”  (Wilder is head of Baker & McKenzie’s global environmental markets practice and professor of Climate Change Law at the Australian National University).

CHOICE’s article clarifies the process of selecting a carbon offset provider with links to formal accreditations, tips on what to look out for when choosing your provider and a discussion on what’s included the cost of the offsets themselves. Offsets are rarely an adequate alternative to reducing your emissions in the first place–the last page of this article offers cost neutral and low cost tips.

The National Carbon Offsets Standard

More relevant for businesses than individual consumers, the National Carbon Offsets Standard provides guidance on voluntary carbon emissions and sets minimum requirements for calculating, auditing and offsetting the carbon footprint of an organisation, product or event to voluntarily achieve ‘carbon neutrality’. While there is discussion of government regulated carbon pricing- the nature of which will change with a new federal government–it has some tips on how you can make sense of carbon offsets as a business.

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