Monday, August 06, 2007

Carbon Offsets Market Needs Regulation and Standards, Says Editor of Science Magazine

It seems that every day, we hear of new people and companies going "carbon neutral". However, the carbon offsets market is still kind of a wild west: it's not clear how much of our offset funds are really being invested in the development and implementation of carbon reducing projects, and how much are just going into slick marketing aimed at selling more offsets.

So what will it take for the carbon offsets market to live up to its promising potential for reducing carbon emissions -- by funding projects in such areas as tropical forest conservation, renewable energy development, energy conservation, and methane sequestration?

This was the question I posed to Don Kennedy, editor of the prestigious journal, Science, yesterday, at the conclusion of his lecture overviewing basic strategies for combating climate change.

The carbon offsets market needs regulation, Kennedy quickly responded at last evening's opening plenary of the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America. "There's a lot of fraud out there," and the market needs Consumer Reports type oversight with regulatory clout.

I couldn't agree more.

At a time that the consequences of not taking action to solve climate change are becoming clearer and clearer (as are the benefits of taking action, as demonstrated by this story, for example), we just can't afford for these solution-seeking dollars go to waste. We absolutely need standards and guidelines that provide buyers with rock-solid assurances that moneys from their purchases of carbon offsets are being used to reduce the amount of carbon emissions they are paying to offset.

As far as Consumer Reports-type guides that explore offset providers and the market in general, there are a few (please let me know if you know of others):
As far as certifications or standards, there is Green-e and the WWF-supported (and more stringent) Gold Standard, though both are voluntary.

While we're bound to continue to see articles like this until the problems are fixed, the good news for both offset buyers and the planet is that it finally seems that standards with regulatory clout are on the way.

I can't wait to see what they entail, and to buy my offsets from providers who meet the best of these standards!

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