Project-based emissions reductions, when properly implemented, are a high-quality environmental commodity. They must be equally as effective in reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels as an on-site reduction by an emitter. Offsets that do not meet this test do not deliver on the basic promise that an offset makes: to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas levels to what they would have been if the emissions being offset had not occurred in the first place.
To ensure that actual emissions reductions are achieved, in the jargon of the offset world, it is necessary to prove a project's emissions reductions are 'additional'; that is, that the project would not have occurred irrespective of greenhouse gas considerations, or under a 'business-as-usual' scenario. If the project underlying the offsets would have occurred anyway, then atmospheric greenhouse gas levels will not actually be reduced from what they would have been, and the emissions go unmitigated. For this reason, project-based emissions reductions should come from projects that are clearly beyond the business-as-usual scenario. Additionality, as the primary determinant of the beyond business-as-usual case, can only be assured through the application of stringent project review processes, procedures, standards and criteria.
There are several means of determining whether or not a greenhouse gas reduction project is effective in reducing CO2 levels. Critical metrics include: realistic project baselines, additionality and ongoing monitoring and verification.
These criteria are intended to ensure that the emissions reductions resulting from a greenhouse gas reduction project result in a real and verifiable reduction in atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. In more detail:
• Additionality. Additionality is an essential determinant of the effectiveness of an offset project and one of the most important factors in assessing project quality. Additionality is a policy term by which an assessment is made regarding whether or not a project's emissions reductions are in addition to a business-as-usual scenario. The Climate Trust utilizes a project-specific additionality assessment, in which a project proponent must demonstrate that it faces barriers to implementation that can be addressed through carbon funding. These barriers can be institutional, technological or financial. Additionality is the metric by which a project demonstrates that it is resulting in a real, measurable reduction in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases.
• A realistic baseline. A realistic baseline must be established in order to assess the effectiveness of a project's reduction of greenhouse gas levels. The baseline is intended to demonstrate what the greenhouse gas emission levels would have been in the absence of the greenhouse gas reduction project. Credible greenhouse emissions reductions can only be assessed if the baseline upon which the calculation is based is an accurate and realistic reflection of the business-as-usual emissions scenario.
• Ongoing monitoring and verification. Emissions reductions from greenhouse gas reduction projects must be accurately quantified. Each project must have a monitoring plan that defines how, when and by whom the quantification will be done. All emissions reductions must be verified by an independent third party, certification program or agency.
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.