Creating a standard for carbon offset vendors

a TerraPass Nerd in the wild
Nerd alert: This post is a boring commentary on standards for carbon offset regimes. We are not responsible for drool on reader’s keyboard or that special mark the trackball, “g” and “h” letters make on your forehead.

We have long looked forward to the creation of an industry standard to set guidelines for the service that TerraPass provides. We think that standards, especially those developed through an open stakeholder process, can unlock markets by boosting vendor quality and consumer confidence.

A case in point is the Green-e green power marketing standard. Conceived over 10 years ago, the stakeholder process resolved thorny issues about which forms of renewable energy would qualify for consumer support. Today, half a million consumers and thousands of businesses have collectively bought over five million megawatt hours of clean renewable energy. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, as of 2003 the voluntary market had been responsible for the installation of 2,300 megawatts of wind capacity.

The hope now is that the Center for Resource Solutions can re-create their success with a standard for the retail carbon offset markets.

We wanted to share with you, our most important stakeholders, TerraPass’
response to the draft standard
(pdf). These comments will also be published on the CRS site, along with all other comments, in a few weeks. If you think we missed anything, or have a question, or just want to comment, drop a note below.

A bit of fair warning: this isn’t exactly gripping reading, and some of our recommendations only make sense in the context of various industry debates. If you have any questions about why we’ve made a particular recommendation, just ask. On the bright side, it’s only seven pages long.

If you are an industry participant, observer, carbon purchaser, fence-sitter, naysayer or cheerleader we encourage you to send your own comments to CRS. This is our industry to create, to shape and to nurture for the future.

The future would like to hear from you.

Author Bio

tom

Comments Disabled

  1. Aaron A. - February 1, 2007

    I know it’s a bit late, since the comment window ended yesterday, but I liked your recommendations. I’m sure Green-e is trying to accomodate vendors, but some of their guidelines were a bit vague.

    The whole concept of selling future offsets strikes me as odd. As a private party, I wouldn’t appreciate it if I handed over my cash, then found out the offsets wouldn’t take effect until 2010. For commercial entities, where they might enter into a multi-year offset agreement, that makes sense. If I were buying a product like the Aviator TerraPass (the lifetime million-pound product), that would make sense*. But as a standard-issue American consumer, I’d feel a little ripped off. At this stage in the offset industry’s evolution, allegations of dishonesty would be a bad thing for the whole industry.

    – A.

    * That’s actually kind of an interesting question, at least in the sense that any of this standard-setting stuff is interesting. Most TerraPasses are for a single year, but do Aviators fund 1,000,000 pounds of reductions today, or, say, 50,000 pounds per year for twenty years?

  2. Adam Stein - February 2, 2007

    Well, we agree that it’s important to match the time of the reduction to the time of the purchase, but to be fair there are reputable organizations who practice forward-selling. It’s a tricky issue.
    In answer to your question, Aviator TerraPasses offset all of the emissions today. It’s a little awkward, but we simply don’t forward-sell. In some ways you can think of it as an extra environmental good deed. It’s better to offset now than in the future.

  3. Aaron A. - February 2, 2007

    [T]o be fair there are reputable organizations who practice forward-selling. It’s a tricky issue.

    Of course, and I don’t pretend to understand it as well as you (the whole TerraPass crew) do. Public perception is a funny thing, though. Just last month, I found myself defending the carbon offset concept against friends & acquaintances who were convinced that it’s all a big scam, and/or that we’re just postponing the inevitable. No need to fuel their fire with complex jargon. That’s what I like about you guys; you’ve always been accessible and (as far as I can tell) honest with us.

    Aviator TerraPasses offset all of the emissions today. It’s a little awkward, but we simply don’t forward-sell. In some ways you can think of it as an extra environmental good deed. It’s better to offset now than in the future.

    Good to know, and it seems like it would be a lot easier to administer that way.