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Carbon Offsetting: the Frequently Asked Questions

Climate change is finally getting the media attention it deserves, and so is carbon offsetting. But what is carbon offsetting? How does it work? Can you trust it? These are just some of the most frequently-asked questions we encounter on carbon offsetting, and here are some simple, concise answers.

Soil Carbon in Africa: Potentials and Pitfalls

Imagine a world where African farmers raise their standard of living by shifting towards sustainable agriculture that mitigates climate change – while cashing in on this shift via ecosystem service payments. If you can’t imagine it, drop in on the real deal: in the Kiambu District of Central Kenya, where a groundbreaking pilot project is testing new financing mechanisms that capture carbon in soil.

Is this Man’s ‘Nutrient Farm’ the Mitigation Bank of Tomorrow?

Veteran Chicago hydrologist Don Hey has been arguing for decades that his region could slash its water control costs by taking better care of swamps and floodplains. Local politicians are finally listening – and supporting him on a massive market-based wetland restoration effort that could help ratchet up the scale of mitigation banking across the United States.

Australia Pushes Toward Emissions Trading

The Australian states and territories are collectively pushing a national greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme despite active resistance from the Commonwealth government. The Ecosystem Marketplace considers the potential implications of implementing the world's first state-based National Emissions Trading Scheme.

Ecosystem Services in the New York City Watershed

Nine years ago, New York City launched a revolutionary project to protect its drinking water by protecting the ecosystem services of its watershed. Ecosystem Marketplace checks up on the most famous ecosystem services project in the world.

Easements and tradable tax credits: bursting bubble or self-correcting mechanism?

With the huge growth of the land trust movement throughout the United States, the use (and misuse) of conservation easements recently has become the subject of a great deal of debate. The Ecosystem Marketplace looks at how markets in easement tax credits have fueled this controversy in ways both good and bad.

China’s Big Plans For Forests And Climate Change

China’s national climate action plan will drive down emissions in part by ramping up the country’s already massive tree-planting programs. But scientists are still haggling over how ambitious to call the land-use target. China released the plan this week.

New Conservation Bank Aims To Save The Roaming Sage-Grouse

The greater sage-grouse might not be officially listed as endangered, but conservation of the bird is in full swing. This spring, conservation banking officially entered the fray with the creation of the first sage-grouse bank in Wyoming, a venture spanning thousands of acres that suggests a shift in species banking as well as in overall conservation strategy.

New Conservation Bank Aims
To Save The Roaming Sage-Grouse

The greater sage-grouse might not be officially listed as endangered, but conservation of the bird is in full swing. This spring, conservation banking officially entered the fray with the creation of the first sage-grouse bank in Wyoming, a venture spanning thousands of acres that suggests a shift in species banking as well as in overall conservation strategy.

This Week In Water: A Brazil Matrix And Supply Chain Risk

This month, Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends launched an interactive map and database tracking and categorizing over 2,000 payments for ecosystem services in Brazil called the Brazilian Matrix of Ecosystem Services. In other news, a diverse national water quality trading network released a program-building guide.

This Week In Biodiversity: Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Teeters Between Cooperation And Conflict

Greater sage-grouses living in the US West received good news with Colorado announcing new voluntary conservation measures and the Bureau of Land Management rolling out landscape-level protection strategies. However, a new funding bill in the Senate aims to block a listing decison for another year. And on a separate note, Brazil passed a law granting easier access to Amazonia’s natural resources.

Norway Supports The Governors’ Task Force To The Tune Of $25 Million

Norway broke new ground in supporting the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force this week when the country announced $25 million in financing to the initiative over a 4-year period. While the funds have potential to plug significant funding gaps, they could also encourage other countries to follow Norway’s example.

Things White People Like – As Told By A Hadza Tribesman

When the Hadza hunter-gatherer people of northern Tanzania decided to slow deforestation in the Yaeda Valley, they turned to carbon markets. First, they had to do something they’d never done before: secure rights to the land they had been inhabiting for for 40,000 years

The Sustainability Strategy That No One Talked About

More than 200 major brands use carbon offsets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recent Ecosystem Marketplace report. Representatives from two of those companies, Volcom and Intuit, spoke at Sustainable Brands about how they’re promoting offsetting from within.

Climate Negotiators Deliver Win For Forests With Breakthrough In Bonn

Climate-change negotiators meeting in Bonn today approved the last few remaining technical provisions for REDD+, creating a standardized set of mechanisms that countries can begin incorporating into their climate strategies. Still unclear, however, is whether countries can meet their emission-reduction obligations by reducing deforestation abroad.

Full Circle: REDD and Indigenous People Past, Present, and Future

Do you find REDD confusing, opaque, and obtuse? Do you wonder where it came from, how it evolved, and how it impacts indigenous people? If so, feel free to check out our emerging series on "Indigenous REDD" – or download a booklet containing our year-to-date coverage of this fascinating subject.

Brazilian Ecosystem Services Matrix Brings Transparency To Environmental Finance

Brazil is not only a hotbed of ecosystem services, it’s also testing grounds for the market-like payments for ecosystem services approach to conserve and manage these natural services. And now, a new initiative launching this week provides a comprehensive way to track, understand and scale these programs using an interactive mapping and database system.

REDD Dawn: The Birth Of Forest Carbon

Governments around the world will have pledged more than $7 billion to support "REDD", which is an acronym for "Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation" of forests. The acronym covers a broad set of activities that aim to slow climate change by saving endangered forests and keeping carbon locked in trees. In this series, we examine the history of REDD and the evolving role of indigenous people.

Voluntary Buyers Spend Nearly $4.5 Billion on Offsets Over Last Decade

The voluntary carbon markets have served as the testing ground for compliance programs all over the world, even moving forward when efforts to implement mandatory cap-and-trade programs stalled. This has led to the voluntary markets having an influence that extends well beyond the nearly one billion offsets transacted over the last decade, according to Ecosystem Marketplace’s latest State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets report.

Jurisdictional REDD: Long Deferred, Soon Delivered

Forest-carbon projects are now conserving as much forested land as you’ll find in all of Malaysia. It’s a stunning achievement, but one that needs to get big fast if we’re to make a dent in global greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, jurisdictions like the Brazilian state of Acre are developing "jurisdictional REDD" programs to do just that.

Choco Darien: What Forest Carbon Can (And Cannot) Achieve

Colombia’s civil war had the perverse effect of protecting the forests in and around the Tolo River, but peace brought loggers and cattlemen, while poverty drove desperate forest people to begin chopping trees. Here’s how they used REDD to fight deforestation and build the foundation for a more sustainable future.

Market-Based Species Conservation Receives Boost From US Gov Land Management Plans

The US Bureau of Land Management on Thursday released its final environmental reviews of land-use plans containing greater sage-grouse habitat. As the plans make use of compensatory mitigation, those in the mitigation space are viewing the strategy as a potential driver to increase demand for market mechanisms like habitat exchanges and conservation banks.

Mixed Initial Responses To Final US Clean Water Rule

The US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers finalized their Clean Water Rule on Wednesday. First impressions of the rule meant to protect US waterways from various sources of pollution through clearer definitions of which wetlands and streams are covered under the Clean Water Act are mixed.

Standoff Continues In South Korea’s New Carbon Markets

With no trading of allowances since mid-January, businesses regulated by South Korea’s cap-and-trade program have made their dislike of the carbon markets well known. That stand-off will likely end next year, as the first compliance deadline approaches, but analysts warn that a scarce supply of offsets may increase the costs for companies then.

States And Provinces Commit To 2-Ton Per Person Carbon Limit By 2050

Representatives from states and provinces in seven countries spread across Europe and North and South America yesterday committed to slashing per-capita greenhouse-gas emissions to less than two tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent – a cut of up to 95% – by 2050

Invalidation Risk Still Shadows California Offsets Market

The decision by California regulators to invalidate carbon offsets generated at an incineration facility in Arkansas last year continues to cast a dark cloud over the North American carbon markets. The invalidation risk for offsets bound for the U.S. state’s program remains a barrier in completing deals, with more invalidations potentially on the horizon, as stakeholders made clear at the Climate Action Reserve’s carbon markets conference.

This Week In Biodiversity: A Race To The Bottom?

The annual National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking Conference happened this month with the incoming National Mitigation Banking Association (NMBA) president citing low standards and a lack of equivalency in mitigation products as the fundamental challenges facing the industry today. Meanwhile, outside of the US, researchers explore integrating biodiversity into REDD+ in Indonesia.

Early Action: Not So Fast In California Offsets Program

California’s offset market was the source of about nine million compliance offset transactions in 2014, according to an Ecosystem Marketplace analysis. However, that number could have been even higher if the evaluation of early action carbon offset projects by California regulators had not moved at a snail’s pace, according to stakeholders.

Subnational Climate Leaders Will Get Their Day In The Paris Sun

National negotiators will seek to reach an international climate deal during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Paris in December. But states and provinces already taking action – including by launching or planning to join carbon trading programs – have earned a seat at the international table.

Study Finds Symbiotic Relationship Between Voluntary And Compliance Markets In North America

When the US state of California developed its cap-and-trade program, it drew on voluntary markets across North America. Many thought that when the state’s compliance market kicked in, the voluntary markets would quietly fade away. Instead, an Ecosystem Marketplace analysis of 2014 offset transactions across North America shows there is more than enough room for both – with voluntary volume even higher than compliance volume.

REDD+ And Green Supply Chains: The Yin And Yang Of Saving Forests

Companies worth more than $4 trillion have promised to reduce their impact on the world’s forests, and more than one-third of the new pledges came just last year, which more than doubled 2013’s total. Now comes the hard part: keeping those promises honest, and helping smaller suppliers adjust to the new demand. Here’s how public finance for forest protection can help.

Lima To Invest $110 Million in Green Infrastructure And Climate Adaptation

The city of Lima made headlines around the world when it announced it was funneling some of its water fees into a program to restore pre-Incan structures that capture excess rainwater in the rainy season and redirect into the mountain, so that it’s available in the dry season. That program, however, is just a small part of a massive green infrastructure program that could serve as a model for cities around the world.

New Credit Card Aims To Spur Individual Carbon Offset Purchases

Individuals have traditionally been a miniscule source of demand in the voluntary carbon markets. A new company called Sustain:Green is hoping to change that by offering consumers a credit card that makes over the traditional customer reward structure to allow them to finance the purchase of carbon offsets.

Emerging From The Darkness: New Process Aims To Tackle Black Carbon

Soot and smoke no longer blanket London and other Western cities like they once did, but these and other forms of “black carbon” continue to plague families in developing countries. Now a new Gold Standard methodology will offer clean cookstoves projects the chance to access a new source of funding for reducing these emissions.

Rapping For REDD: Will Ecosystem Services Go Mainstream This Earth Day?

Today marks our 45th Earth Day – 45 years of watching vertebrates die to the point that we now have half as many as we did in 1970, and 45 years of watching greenhouse gas concentrations soar, to the point that temperatures are now inching menacingly upwards. But in the past year, we’ve also seen a surge in awareness of our own dependence on our planet’s living ecosystems.

This Week In Biodiversity: Choose Your Own Adventure

The argument over voluntary approaches to conserve at risk-species like the greater sage-grouse isn’t waning. Meanwhile, new research applying the mitigation hierarchy to the agriculture and forestry sectors finds net positive impacts for biodiversity are possible and a separate report finds commodity subsidies driving deforestation vastly outweigh conservation finance to protect forests.

NGOs, Cities Use Economic Argument To Win Industry Support For Stormwater Regs

Water brings life, but torrential downpours bring sludge and sewage overflow – contributing pollution around the world. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency is under pressure to regulate more aggressively, but, increasingly, NGOs and local authorities are moving ahead with cost-effective stormwater management plans of their own.

This Week In Forest Carbon: REDD Gets Sweeter

The Tambopata REDD, based in Peru, aims to pair carbon finance with sustainable cocoa production with help from a $7 million investment by Althelia Climate Fund. Rather than rely on carbon finance long term, the project is designed to use offset sales as the start-up capital to set up the sustainable cocoa production – which over time will become the main revenue stream for farmers.

Venturing Into Uncharted Territory: Applying Net Positive Impacts For Biodiversity In Forestry And Agriculture

For many land-use sectors, the mitigation hierarchy is an effective way to manage the possible loss of biodiversity that comes with development. However, it isn’t used in several significant sectors like agriculture and forestry. That may be changing as new research finds that using the hierarchy can lead to net positive impacts for biodiversity within some of these missing sectors.

Tight Federal Deadlines May Keep U.S. States Out Of Existing Cap-And-Trade Programs

Several U.S. states are considering joining existing cap-and-trade programs such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to comply with pending carbon rules from the federal government. However, a major obstacle in doing so is the tight deadlines that federal officials have set for states to submit compliance plans.