The Newest Hybrid: Notes Toward Standardized Certification of Carbon Offsets
40 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2009
Date Written: April 28, 2009
The voluntary carbon offset market in the United States has flourished even in the absence of nationwide limits on green house gas emissions. The market will grow exponentially with the advent of cap-and-trade regulation. Whether fueled by altruism or by the desire to appear altruistic, individuals and corporate actors are willing to spend substantial amounts of money investing in projects designed to reduce green house gas emissions and render various activities carbon neutral. Left to private market regulation, a myriad of certification programs and protocols defining what constitutes a viable carbon offset has arisen. This proliferation of standards is causing confusion in the market place and raises questions about the integrity of offsets, both in terms of the current voluntary offset market and future domestic and international markets.
This article examines the need for standardized certification of carbon offsets, exploring lessons learned from the evolution of the organics market which underwent a similar transition from a fragmented, multi-standard approach to a uniform standard of certification. Creating an offset certification program that includes market stakeholders in the standards forming and implementing process - with appropriate government oversight - addresses issues of market integrity while creating a system with the potential to preserve flexibility and innovation in the offset market.
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