In the past months, the terms of the domestic and international debate over how to address climate change have been shifting. However this discussion evolves, it is essential to understand and assess carbon offset credits as a tool in climate-change policy.
Panelists will explore how carbon offsets could achieve cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gases, and how to judge whether methods proposed for measuring and verifying offsets are capable of producing the intended environmental benefits.
Starting with the Kyoto Protocol, cap-and-trade mechanisms have been a central element of the regulatory architecture designed to ramp down GHG emissions. An integral part of the cap-and-trade approach has been the inclusion of carbon or GHG offsets from projects or regions that are not under the cap. They entail measures taken to reduce, avoid, or sequester greenhouse gases. These projects must produce reductions which would not have occurred otherwise, and which are not vitiated by increased emissions elsewhere, or at a later time. A well-designed offsets program should reduce compliance costs without undermining the effectiveness of a cap-and-trade program.
Now, despite more than a decade of offset experience, significant questions remain about whether and how these measures and goals can be met. We will consider some of the questions that will be crucial in determining what would be needed to make an offsets program effective, efficient, and equitable.
- Who are the key stakeholders in the debate over offsets?
- Many offset programs are already in existence. What can be learned from their experience when developing a U.S. system for offsets? What must be done to assure that offsets are creditworthy, and minimize the risk that offset developers, brokers, and purchasers can "game the system"?
- Are high quality standards compatible with cost-effectiveness, and with the creation of a significant supply of offsets?
- Can any mechanisms be developed which minimize risk to the purchaser and the developer of offset credits, while still assuring that the required reductions in GHGs are achieved over time?
- What role should regulation or other tools be given in climate policy as complements (or alternatives) to carbon offsets in reducing GHG emissions, especially in uncapped sectors?
Offsets; One Tool in the Climate Policy Toolbox
Sasha Lyutse, Natural Resources Defense Council
Greenhouse Gas Offsets: Hot Air or Climate Solution?
Alexia Kelly, World Resources Institute
Nancy Anderson, Sallan Foundation
Networking Reception to Follow