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Carbon Offset Credits: Making Them Credible in Climate-Change Policy


for Members

Carbon Offset Credits: Making Them Credible in Climate-Change Policy

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By

Presented by the Green Science & Environmental Policy Discussion Group and the Environmental Sciences Section


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

Panel Discussion


Nancy Anderson, Sallan Foundation

Networking Reception to Follow



Nancy E. Anderson, PhD

Sallan Foundation

Nancy E. Anderson, Executive Director of the Sallan Foundation, is a life-long New Yorker. After obtaining both her BA and PhD from New York University, she served as an environmental advisor in City government for two decades. During that time, she wrote the Community Right-to-Know law, co-authored the recycling law, and helped prevent the sale of the City's water supply.

Since opening the doors of the Sallan Foundation in 2005, she has worked to advance useful knowledge for greener cities. Making high performance building New York’s “new normal” and seeking sustainable solutions to urban energy needs are among the Foundation’s key campaigns. She writes a bi-monthly “Torchlight” column for the Sallan website and commissions guest op-ed columns and original research. In addition, Dr. Anderson organizes conferences and she lectures on subjects key to the Foundation’s mission.

Learn more about Sallan at

Alexia Kelly

World Resources Institute

Alexia Kelly is a Senior Associate in the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Climate and Energy Program. Alexia’s work at WRI focuses on greenhouse gas emission markets and federal climate change mitigation policy. In addition, Alexia is a faculty member of the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute, where she co-developed and instructs a course on greenhouse gas project accounting. Prior to joining WRI Alexia served as the Policy Program Manager at The Climate Trust, where she managed the organization’s policy engagement and initiatives. While at The Climate Trust Alexia also managed the Offset Quality Initiative, a cooperative consortium of six leading non-profit organizations focused on the promotion of high quality GHG offsets.

Alexia holds a BA in Planning, Public Policy and Management, a Master of Community and Regional Planning and a Master of Public Administration, from the University of Oregon.

Sasha Lyuste

Natural Resources Defense Council

Sasha Lyutse is a Welch Environmental Innovation Fellow at NRDC's Center for Market Innovation. Prior to joining NRDC, Sasha worked as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, providing client relationship management, custodial, financing and reporting services for hedge funds, as well as at US embassies in both London and Paris. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a dual Masters in Public Administration from the London School of Economics and Sciences Po University in Paris.


*Additional speaker biographies coming soon.


Offsets; One Tool in the Climate Policy Toolbox

Sasha Lyuste, Natural Resources Defense Council

This presentation will introduce carbon offsets and their role as an abatement wedge within a domestic cap and trade system. It will look at different abatement scenarios where offsets, both domestic and international, play larger or smaller roles in reducing U.S. emissions, highlighting the sensitivity of economic analyses of the costs of cap and trade programs to assumptions about offsets. It will then discuss the political, economic and environmental implications of these scenarios for our ability to meet our emissions reduction targets and draw conclusions about the need to protect the integrity of the cap by ensuring a supply of high-quality offsets. In addition, the presentation will touch on issues surrounding early offsets supply, as well as the need for complementary policies to drive emissions reductions outside of the cap.

Greenhouse Gas Offsets: Hot Air or Climate Solution?

Alexia Kelly, World Resources Institute

Greenhouse gas (GHG) offsets have been an important and controversial component of international and U.S. climate policy approaches to date. The inclusion of GHG offsets in a U.S. cap and trade program presents unique challenges and opportunities. This presentation will explore the key components of offset quality, discuss the challenges in ensuring that quality, examine the environmental implications in the event that offset quality is missing and consider U.S.-specific elements of offset policy design.

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