Environment Magazine

Carbon Offsets

Posted on the 10 April 2013 by Rinkesh @ThinkDevGrow

Carbon Offsets: Replacing the harm done

Carbon offset is nothing but investing in projects that reduce or avoid CO2 emissions or greenhouse gases to reduce their carbon footprint in a bid to save the world from drastic climate changes.  Carbon offsetting is a kind of damage control. In order to compensate for the deadly carbon emissions, individuals or businesses purchase carbon offsets which means the emissions of Carbon-dioxide and the other harmful greenhouse gases are controlled and reduced elsewhere. You can calculate your carbon footprint here.

Let us take a look at the features of carbon offsets: The word vintage is used to refer to the  year in which carbon reduction occurs. The source is a project or a technology used in carbon offsetting. It includes land-use,bio mass, methane, renewable energy and industrial energy efficiency etc. These projects may also have sub  benefits like reduced greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural activities may better water quality from reduced fertilizer use. The certification regime are the systems and procedures used to certify and register carbon offsets and their methods.

Grow plants to reduce emissions

Carbon Offsetting projects are aimed at reducing the carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted in the atmosphere. The results of these projects may be immediate or long term depending on the nature of the project. Let us take unconventional sources of energy or for that matter renewable sources. When we look at the investments in wind farms or hydro-power plants installed at dams they are nothing but investments to reduce carbon emissions via carbon offsetting. More examples of carbon offsetting would include afforestation, solar energy models, disposal of industrial and agricultural by products etc.

All the carbon offset projects should be:

Real : These carbon offset projects should not displace emissions elsewhere.

Permanent : They should aim at reducing or avoiding emissions permanently

Verifiable : The emissions that are reduced by these projects should be verifiable by third party to ensure that emissions have actually been reduced.

There are two levels at which carbon offsetting is conducted. Let us begin by understanding the large scale compliance market. In the large scale compliance market, the participants are national governments, corporate companies, non-governmental organizations, international organizations etc. They invest carbon offsets as a part of their social responsibility as well as to keep a tab on the total permissible amount of green house gas emissions. The need to invest in the same is also in order to adhere with the several guidelines that they are expected to follow like  under the Kyoto Protocol Annex 1 parties. One can usually see a corporate company invest in wind farms or an energy efficiency model as their choice of a carbon offset project.

As per the Carbon offsets daily’s observation in their 2008 piece ‘Brands and carbon offsets’, in this smaller market also called the voluntary market, approximately $705 million carbon offsets were sold. When calculated this amounts to approximately 123.4 million metric tons of carbon reductions. This level for carbon offsetting exists at a much smaller level as compared to the first. However it is an integral part. Herein individuals or companies etc invest in employing carbon offsets to battle greenhouse gases on a more smaller and personal level. They try to control and curb the  emissions from the greenhouse gases emitted while using modes of transport, electricity, combustion of fuels on a domestic level among other smaller chores.

The measurement scale of carbon offsets is metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalents abbreviated as CO2e. These include the major greenhouse gases viz. carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride(SF6). So when we say one carbon offset, we are referring to the reduction of one metric ton of either carbon dioxide or any of the green house gases in the same measure.

Let us take a look at various Carbon offset projects.

Renewable energy offsets usually include solar, wind and hydro energy projects. Bio fuel can also be considered under renewable energy.

Methane collection and combustion is the next type of carbon offsetting project. This includes the collection and combustion of methane generated by anaerobic sources, industrial waste and the methane generated from land fills.

Land use and forestry, look to create natural carbon sinks in forests and using the soil. The sub projects in these include reforestation which means restoring a forest where it previously existed, afforestation which means creating a new forest space and no deforestation.

Carbon offsetting in energy efficiency projects include co generation plants. Co generation plants create electricity and heat from a singular power source. This betters energy efficiency of most power plants, which otherwise usually waste the generated heat energy.

Under Fuel efficiency projects a combustion device is replaced by one utilizing less fuel per unit of  provided energy. This is believing that the energy demand does not change.

Energy-efficient buildings help control the energy wasted in buildings. They employ efficient heating, cooling and/or lighting systems. A good example of the same would be the the replacement of light bulbs with fluorescent lamps. This can curb energy consumption to a great extent.

There are several controversies related to carbon offsetting, however it is seen as a worthy eradication to the harm done.

Image Credit: helmacron

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