A review of offset programs: trading systems, funds, protocols, standards and retailers

Carbon or greenhouse gas (GHG) offsets have long been promoted as an important element of a comprehensive climate policy approach. Offset programs can reduce the overall cost of achieving a given emission goal by enabling emission reductions to occur where costs are lower. Furthermore, offsets have the potential to deliver sustainability co-benefits, spurred through technology development and transfer, and to develop human and institutional capacity for reducing emissions in sectors and locations not included in a cap and trade or a mandatory government policy. However, offsets can pose a risk to the environmental integrity of climate actions, especially if issues surrounding additionality, permanence, leakage, quantification and verification are not adequately addressed. The challenge for policymakers is clear: to design offset programs and policies that can maximize their potential benefits while minimizing their potential risks. This report is a systematic and comprehensive review of existing offset programs.