Greenhouse gas offsets and their benefits

What are greenhouse gas offsets, and why are they an important part of a comprehensive climate policy? A greenhouse gas offset project is a project implemented specifically to reduce the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, either by reducing the need for emissions or by sequestering a significant amount of a greenhouse gas such as CO2. Thus, a greenhouse gas offset displaces, avoids or sequesters greenhouse gas emissions through the implementation of a specific project.

Offset projects can take advantage of a wide variety of technological approaches to achieve greenhouse gas reductions, including:

• promoting cogeneration of electricity from industrial waste heat;

• sequestering CO2 in forests and in agricultural soils; and

• shifting from high-carbon energy sources to lower-carbon energy sources, for example, from coal to natural gas or biofuels.

The essential promise of a greenhouse gas offset is the achievement of a real and verifiable reduction in atmospheric greenhouse gas levels that is equal to reductions that would have been realized by on-site mitigation measures by emitters. Due to their long lifetimes and the ways in which greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, the location of a greenhouse gas emission reduction is essentially immaterial to its atmospheric impact. From the atmosphere's perspective, a reduction that occurs at a power plant is no different than a reduction that occurs in a remote African village. Figure 23.1 (Plate 23) illustrates this point graphically.

In addition to reducing the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, such reduction projects can also offer important benefits to the communities

On site Reduction

Offsite

— Reductions Target

Facility

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