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Frequently Asked Questions

What is carbon offsetting?
Will offsetting solve the issue of climate change?
What are carbon offsets?
What are the different carbon markets?
What are the key principles of a Voluntary Emission Reduction (VER)?
How are carbon offsets guaranteed?
What standard is the best for my offsetting program?
What is climate neutrality?
How can I do business climate-neutrally?
What are the benefits for my company of doing business climate neutrally?
Can I choose which project I want to offset with?
How can I be sure that the credits I am purchasing will not be sold again?
How can I find my purchased credits in the registry?
When will my credits be retired or transferred?

What is carbon offsetting?


Carbon offsetting involves investing in projects that prevent or reduce emissions being released thus counterbalancing the emissions associated with your daily life or your business. These projects must comply with stringent rules to ensure they are of the highest quality and actually deliver what they promise.

Will offsetting solve the issue of climate change?


The only way to slow or stop temperature rise due to manmade activities is to restrict the amount of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere and to examine ways to reduce our emissions as much as possible. Offsetting is only one part of a balanced approach to addressing the issue of climate change. While offsetting doesn’t reduce emissions directly, it allows projects to occur that either take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or avoid its release. Offsetting also helps to raise awareness of the issue of climate change and the impact that our lifestyles have on the environment. Also, because offsetting involves a transfer of technologies and knowledge, it supports developing countries to move towards a more sustainable development path.

What are carbon offsets?


Carbon offsets are credits for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions made at another location, Carbon offsets are quantified and sold in metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (1 tCO2e). Buying one tonne of carbon offsets means there will be one less tonne of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there would otherwise have been. This could be, for example, wind farms which create renewable energy and reduce the need for fossil-fuel powered energy. Or a project to swap coal-fired power stations with solar panels or hydro power. Carbon offsetting is often the fastest way to achieve the deepest reductions of carbon emissions. At the same time, it often delivers added benefits at the project site, such as employment opportunities, community development programmes, and training and education.
For a carbon offset to be credible it must meet essential quality criteria, including proof that it is additional (the reduction in emissions would not have occurred without the carbon finance), that it will be retired from the carbon market so it cannot be double counted, and that it addresses issues such as permanence (it delivers the reductions it stated) and leakage (the emission reduction in one area doesn’t cause an increase in emissions somewhere else). All these factors must be approved by a UN-accredited third party.

What are the different carbon markets?


Carbon markets exist under both compliance schemes and as voluntary programs. Compliance markets are created and regulated by mandatory national, regional or international carbon reduction regimes. For the compliance market it is the UNFCCC that guarantess the quality of the credits. Voluntary markets function outside of compliance markets and enable companies and individuals to purchase carbon offsets on a voluntary basis with no intended use for compliance purposes. In the voluntary market private institutions such as the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS), CarbonFix or the Gold Standard Foundation (GS) ultimately guarantee for the integrity of credits developed under their standard.

What are the key principles of Voluntary Emission Reductions (VERs)?


The voluntary market has evolved a simplified process based on the UNFCCC rules for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Several core principles ensure the value retention in VER assets:
Additionality VERs must represent real emission reductions in addition to the business-as-usual scenario.
Sustainability Projects need to be sustainable.
Verifiability An independent third party is required to verify the emissions reductions; this may be carried out by entities accredited by the UNFCCC to conduct similar activities for CDM projects, or by professional environmental consultancies. The most important verifiers are TUV, SGS, and DNV. Reliability Third party registries such as APX and Markit ensure that VERs sold are retired in order to avoid double-counting.
Permanence VERs must represent real emission reductions over a long period of time.

How are carbon offsets guaranteed?


In order to ensure the quality and integrity of carbon offsets, a reliable program of standards, verification processes and registries have been put in place.
High quality offsets are validated by the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS), Gold Standard (GS), CarbonFix, and the Carbon, Community and Biodiversity Standard (CCBS). Each of these standards has specific requirements to ensure the emissions reductions they generate are real, measurable, permanent and additional, i.e. they would not have happened without carbon finance. In each case the requirements are being approved by an independent auditor such as TÜV, SGS or DNV.

What standard is the best for my offsetting program?


All standards mentioned below. are reliable and generate real carbon reductions, however they all have their specific characteristics:

Voluntary Carbon Units (VCUs)
VCUs follow the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS), a high quality standard created by the Climate Group, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and the Emissions Trade Organization. Credits generated under the VCS are based on UNFCCC recognized methodologies and ensure the additionality of the project. At present 48% of all voluntary compensations in the market are developed against the VCS. VCUs are frequently preferred by enterprises that want to compensate for large quantities of greenhouse gases. The VCS is a practical standard under which projects can be developed within two years. The certificates are therefore available in larger quantities on the carbon market.

Gold Standard Verified Emission Reductions (GS VERs)
Like the VCUs, GS VERs ensure greenhouse gas reduction in accordance with the rules of the UNFCC. Furthermore, social, ecological, and economic aspects are recognized, guaranteeing additional criteria are fulfilled that bring benefit for local communities beyond the CO2 reduction. The Swiss based Gold Standard Foundation was formed by WWF and Greenpeace, and promotes only renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Gold GS Standard VERs are frequently purchased by enterprises that value the importance of sustainability in addition to CO2 savings. Due to the higher price of GS VERs, when compared with VCUs, usually such buyers choose this standard when offsetting a smaller quantity of greenhouse gases.

Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA)
CCBA is, at present, the highest quality standard for forest projects – be it reforestation, retaining forest, or controlled sustainable use. Besides the actual carbon mitigation factors such as the conservation of biodiversity, the effects on water, soil and of the communities are also examined. This standard represents more than just quality CO2 savings.

What is climate neutrality?


Numerous activities like car driving, air travel, energy consumption through fossil fuels and deforestation, result in CO2 emissions. These greenhouse gases end up in the atmosphere and cause global warming. Climate neutrality means that while some of your activities produce emissions you finance the reduction or avoidance of the same amount of emissions in some other place and thus neutralize the negative impact on our climate.

How can I do business climate-neutrally?


You can do business climate neutrally by first measuring your carbon footprint and then use a combination of reducing your CO2 emissions where possible and offsetting the rest where emissions cannot be avoided. Small companies can often significantly reduce their CO2 emissions simply by following a few practical tips – and will save money in the process. To become climate neutral you can offset your remaining emissions in a simple manner by using a footprint calculator and offsetting the remaining emissions by buying credits from a sustainable project.

What are the benefits for my company of doing business climate neutrally?


There are many benefits to doing business climate neutrally:

Can I choose which project I want to offset with?


Yes, you can. In our webshop you can choose between projects from different locations, using different technologies and developed under different standards. What they have in common is not only their transparency and proven additionality but the fact that you buy issued credits, i.e. the specific emissions reduction has already taken place and therefore is not only a promise for some distant future.

How can I be sure that the credits I am purchasing will not be sold again?


All projects are registered in dedicated registries, officially recognized by the VCS (www.v-c-s.org) or by the Gold Standard Foundation (www.cdmgoldstandard.org). For each project in its portfolio, SP will indicate the relevant Registry on which the credits are registered, and the clients will have the possibility to see them on the Registry's web page. The registry system ensures the traceability of all transactions executed within and among Registries, which guarantees that credits that have been already sold cannot be transacted again.

How can I find my purchased credits in the registry?


The default way to make sure that your credits are taken out of the market is called "retirement". On the invoice or transaction statement sent to you by e-mail after a successful purchase of credits via the webshop, you can see a link to the registry and the retirement remarks. You may have to click through to find the listing of retired VER credits and can then use the search function. Some registries call the retirement remarks differently, e.g. "Transferee/Honoree/Other". Your credits may be retired together with other purchased credits, so the amount of tons may be higher than your amount. As registries do not allow retirement of fractions of tons (yet), the tons have to be rounded. By rounding consistently, and rounding up for amounts below 1 ton, over time the total amount of retired credits tends to be higher than the amount of purchased credits.
If you already hold your own registry account for the type of credits you wish to purchase, you have the possibility to transfer credits. Transferred credits will then end up in your own account. To activate this option, please contact us at shop@southpolecarbon.com.

When will my credits be retired or transferred?


You will get your South Pole certificate and an invoice with your retirement and transfer confirmation immediately via e-mail. The actual retirement or transfer on the registry will take a bit longer. While we work on a solution that allows immediate retirements and transfers, currently the process can take up to 120 days until completion. If you need your credits retired or transferred earlier, please contact us at shop@southpolecarbon.com beforehand.