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A Review of Offset Programs: Trading Systems, Funds, Protocols, Standards and Retailers

SEI Research Report

Author(s): Kollmuss, A. ; Lazarus, M. ; Lee, C.M. ; Polycarp, C.
Year: 2008

Research Area(s): Emissions Trading & Offsets

Description: 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.

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