Carbon offset providers ranked

By Kylie Wilson-Field
Wednesday, 17 September, 2008


The first independent ranking of Australian carbon offset providers, Carbon Offset Watch, was launched in Sydney this week, in a joint initiative between the Total Environment Centre (TEC), CHOICE and the Institute of Sustainable Futures (ISF).

According to the TEC, the ranking system will outline the best carbon offsets available and will increase consumer confidence about whether the offsets they buy will be effective for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With the voluntary carbon offset market growing exponentially, there is a confusing number of claims, products and carbon calculators available to consumers.

Carbon Offset Watch say they will clearly rank 20 of the largest offset providers from ‘Outstanding’ to ‘Adequate’, with performance category definitions described as:

  • Outstanding (scored 90% or more): there is a very high likelihood that an offset purchased from these retailers will deliver real, additional greenhouse gas emission reductions.
  • Good (scored 75 to 89%): there is a high likelihood that an offset purchased from these retailers will deliver real, additional greenhouse gas emission reductions.
  • Adequate (scored 60 to 74%): while it is likely that an offset purchased from these retailers will deliver real, additional greenhouse gas emission reductions, they represent a higher degree of risk for the consumer.
  • Not recommended (scored less than 60%): there is little certainty that offsets purchased from retailers in this category would deliver real and additional reductions.

No retailers who participated in Carbon Offset Watch fell into the 'Not recommended' category. This does not imply that all Australian carbon offset retailers perform well, added Carbon Offset Watch. Over 50 voluntary carbon market participants were invited to take part in the first assessment, with 20 carbon-offset retailers choosing to participate.

Chris Riedy, research director at ISF, a university research institute at UTS in Sydney that conducts independent, project-based research for Australian and international clients, says the institute found that there were real differences in the quality and reliability of carbon offsets provided by different retailers.

“We are taking the confusion out of the process so that people can make an informed decision. This ranking system allows people to see which offset providers guarantee a reduction in carbon footprint and which do not.”

Jane Castle, TEC resource conservation campaigner, says the Australian carbon offset industry is worth over $44 million a year and its credibility has, in recent times, been in question.

“Carbon Offset Watch will force the industry to grow up by naming the best and most reliable. Consumers who are actively trying to reduce their carbon footprint are making an important contribution but need to be assured, not duped into buying offsets that provide little environmental benefit,” she said.

Details are available at www.carbonoffsetwatch.org.au.

 

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