Q: What is an offset? Where is my money going when I buy a Green-e Climate Certified offset?
A: An offset is an environmental commodity or product that represents the reduction of a specific amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Offsets are generated from (i.e. emissions are reduced at) project-based activities located away from the source of emissions that are to be offset by the purchase. By purchasing an offset, the consumer alone has the right to all associated claims about the environmental benefits it embodies. Green-e Climate Certified offsets are real, additional GHG emissions reductions, not donations or investments in future projects. By purchasing offsets, consumers stimulate market demand for GHG emissions reductions and emissions reduction projects, which helps mitigate the effect of climate change.
Q: What does Green-e Climate certify? How can I become certified?
A: Green-e Climate certifies offsets themselves (the commodity that is bought and sold in the carbon market), not offset projects, or companies that sell offsets or develop projects. Offset providers and other sellers of offsets can sign up to have their offset product(s) Green-e Climate Certified. Only sellers participating in the program are able to sell Green-e Climate Certified offsets and use the Green-e Climate logo.
Sellers interested in having their offset product(s) Green-e Climate certified, should first read Become a Seller. If you have any questions during the process, please email climate [at] green-e [dot] org or call 415-561-2100 for more information.
Q: What makes Green-e Climate different from other standards and certification programs Iíve heard of, and why is Green-e Climate certification important?
A: Green-e Climate certifies the offset, as opposed to the offset project. It is the only program that certifies the actual environmental commodity that is bought and sold in the market.
In the global voluntary carbon market, Green-e Climate is the only standard and certification program that makes sure that what is sold (and not just what is generated) is legitimate. There are several established standards for offset generators—the emissions reductions projects, or the supply in this market—including the Gold Standard, the Verified Carbon Standard [formerly the Voluntary Carbon Standard], and the Climate Action Reserve, among others. These project certification programs that verify supply are one essential piece of what is needed for a robust market. But, in order for consumers to truly have confidence that what they are buying is real, they also need:
Green-e Climate streamlines all of these vital pieces into a single brand that consumers can see and trust.
In other words, Green-e Climate is the first and only offset certification program that covers the entire chain of custody up to the point of sale. It sets the standard for which of the project standards and protocols are most robust, limits supply to only these endorsed project certification programs, requires verification of ownership and sales, and ensures full disclosure and accurate offset information to the consumer.
Q: I have a project (forestry, energy efficiency, renewable energy, etc), or an idea for a new type of project that reduces emissions. Can you certify it?
A: No. Green-e Climate certifies GHG emission reduction products (offsets), not the projects that generate them. One requirement for participating sellers of offsets is that the GHG emission reductions must be sourced from projects certified by an endorsed project certification program. If you are a project developer seeking certification, you should contact one of our Endorsed Programs.
Q: Does Green-e Climate include requirements regarding carbon calculators and the calculation methodology of emission "footprints"?
A: The program does not identify specific requirements for emissions calculations methodologies at present. However, sellers of Certified Products that host a carbon calculator must make their inputs available to the public, including emission factors, assumptions, and methodologies used to calculate emissions from specific activities. They also must use internationally accepted numbers from government agencies such as the U.S. EPA, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the World Resources Institute, the GHG Protocol Initiative, or similar initiatives.
Q: What is additionality?
A: See the definition in the Green-e Dictionary.
Q: Can renewable energy be used as an offset?
A: Yes, in certain cases.
While renewable energy generation reduces emissions, not all emissions reductions can be bought and sold as offsets. The generation of renewable energy backs down conventional GHG emitting electricity generation and reduces the need for new fossil-fueled power plants, which in turn leads to reduced GHG emissions. If a renewable energy facility is additional, it is generally eligible to generate offsets. Since not all renewable energy facilities are additional, not all renewable energy facilities can generate offsets. Different offset project methodologies and protocols for renewable energy specify the criteria that must be met for a facility to be additional.
Most of the major internationally accepted offset programs, including the Gold Standard, the Clean Development Mechanism, and the Verified Carbon Standard [formerly the Voluntary Carbon Standard], allow renewable energy facilities as sources for offsets.
It should be noted that if a government policy allocates the ownership of GHG reductions created by renewable energy to fossil-fueled power plants (such as a cap-and-trade scheme that allows capped fossil-fueled power plants to receive credit for reductions), then renewable energy generation will not cause a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and therefore will not be eligible to qualify as an offset.
Q: What is the difference between a renewable energy certificate (REC) and a carbon offset?
A: A REC is an environmental commodity representing the renewable attributes of one megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable electricity generation. A carbon offset is an environmental commodity representing the reduction of a specific quantity of GHG emissions (in units of carbon dioxide equivalent, CO2e). RECs and carbon offsets are both environmental commodities, but they are measured in different units, traded in different markets, have different end uses and can be generated from different project types.
The renewable "attributes" of renewable electricity generation can be split off and sold separately from the electricity produced by a renewable energy facility. Once the renewable attributes (or REC) are split off from the electricity, the underlying electricity is no longer considered "renewable." The final purchaser of the REC can claim the renewable attributes and apply them to his/her own electricity usage, effectively recombining the renewable attributes with the electricity that were originally separated. In this way, it is as if the REC purchaser had consumed the renewable energy directly. The renewable attributes of a Green-e Energy Certified REC include, but are not limited to, avoided GHG emissions due to the generation of renewable energy.
While a REC includes all non-regulated renewable attributes, a carbon offset represents only the GHG emissions that have been reduced at any additional project that reduces emissions, including, but not limited to, renewable electricity facilities (see the answer to the previous question "Can renewable energy be used as an offset?" above)
Both RECs and offsets include a carbon benefit, but RECs are limited in terms of the carbon impact that they are designed to address, and to which they can be applied, namely electricity usage. Carbon impacts (emissions) are classified into emissions categories or "scopes." RECs can address Scope 2 emissions, those associated with the consumption of electricity, by giving the owner of the REC the claim to zero-emissions electricity use. Carbon offsets can be used to negate or diminish all scopes (1, 2, or 3) of emissions.
A project must be additional in order to generate carbon offsets. A renewable energy project does not need to be proven additional in order to generate RECs due to the nature of the REC commodity itself as well as the limitations of the carbon claim conveyed by a REC (scope 2 only). Project additionality makes it possible to separate the GHG emissions reductions from the activity producing them (e.g. methane capture, electricity generation, forestry, etc.) and apply them to emissions outside of the activity (e.g. driving your car)—i.e. to sell or exchange them as a distinct commodity. Since RECs are separated from and recombined with electricity at two ends of essentially the same activity (i.e. electricity generation and use), project additionality is not required in order to convey the claim to use of renewable energy and its benefits on the grid.
The final distinction between RECs and carbon offsets is the geographical scope of the two markets. The boundaries of a REC market are only as large as a contiguous electricity grid (for example, North America). The carbon market is global.
While offsets can be derived from renewable energy projects, so long as the projects are additional, both RECs and offsets cannot be produced simultaneously for the same MWh of renewable generation.
Q: What is the difference between Green-e Energy and Green-e Climate?
A: Green-e Energy is a certification program for the sale of renewable energy in the voluntary market. Products certified by Green-e Energy include utility green pricing programs, competitive electricity products, and RECs, all measured in megawatt hours (MWhs). Green-e Climate is a certification program for the sale of GHG emissions reductions (also called offsets) in the voluntary international carbon market, which are sold as metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).
Q: How can I reduce my carbon footprint?
A: There are many websites that can help you assess your current carbon footprint from energy use, including calculators at the World Resources Institute and the U.S. EPA. An important first step to reducing your carbon footprint is to reduce your energy use as much as possible. After you have reduced what you can, the second step is to buy Green-e Energy Certified renewable energy, or RECs , to match your electricity use. For everything else that you cannot reduce, you can find Green-e Climate Certified Offsets.
Q: What is the proposed geographical scope of Green-e Climate?
A: Green-e Climate is an international program. However, CRS currently requires Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) trained in U.S. audit procedures to perform the verification audit of sellers offering Green-e Climate certified offsets. Green-e Climate staff is working with offset sellers outside of the U.S. to develop international audit procedures.
Q: Are all greenhouse gas emissions reductions eligible under Green-e Climate, or only carbon dioxide?
A: Green-e Climate is primarily aimed at emissions reductions from the six primary greenhouse gases that are included under the Kyoto Protocol: carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride (CO2, N2O, CH4, HFCs, PFCs and SF6).
Q: Is it possible to sell GHG reductions from future projects (i.e. emission reductions that are not yet verified) as part of this program?
A: Green-e Climate only verifies and certifies offsets comprising GHG emission reductions already verified and certified according to an Endorsed Program's protocols. Currently none of the Endorsed Programs have methodologies for future projects.
Q: Can a particular offset seller choose to sell a mixture of certified and non-certified products?
A: Yes. Green-e Climate does not certify offset sellers, only their offset products. Green-e and CRS want to provide a service that assists consumers in making informed choices, not to make or dictate those choices for them.