Carbon credits are tradable certificates representing real and verified reductions or removals of greenhouse gases (GHG). Businesses, governments, and other entities use credits to offset a portion of their GHG emissions. Carbon credit projects are not without their detractors. Much of the criticism stems from the questionable application of their underlying principles.

A carbon-credit system would be unnecessary if businesses could immediately overhaul their operations and achieve net zero emission targets. Though emissions can be reduced progressively through various means, eliminating them entirely won’t be possible for many decades. Carbon credits provide an interim, cost-effective solution. They enable companies and individuals to include offsets while working towards achieving real reductions. By preserving ecosystems and the goods and services they provide, forest-based carbon offset projects also deliver additional benefits to society at large.

The principle of Additionality is at the core of every carbon offset project. Emission reductions are considered additional when they would not have happened in the absence of the project, and revenue generated from the sale of credits was instrumental in overcoming barriers to project implementation. Activities that lead to reductions cannot be legally required and there must be no credible chance of their occurring outside the project itself. Properly demonstrating additionality is essential to the integrity of a carbon project. If the reductions are not additional, then purchasing offset credits in lieu of reducing emissions does not contribute to mitigating the climate crisis.

Once additionality has been established, the next step is to quantify the potential credits the project could generate over time. Project activities are assessed against a ‘baseline scenario’, a narrative of what likely would have happened had an alternative pathway not been chosen. The baseline represents a counterfactual, a hypothesis supported by fact. It can never be established with complete certainty. A credible baseline is plausible, evidence-based, and conservative. That’s important because the lower emissions that result from what actually happens in the project, as compared to the (hypothetical) baseline emissions, determines the number of credits available to be sold. Our imperative is to undertake this process with integrity and transparency.

At 3GreenTree, carbon projects developed to the highest standards is our mission. Call us about your steps toward climate action.


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