Introduction to Carbon Removal Offsets

Introduction to Carbon Removal Offsets

Sam Hope

5 years: Carbon Markets

What role will offsetting play in the journey to net zero? Join Sam Hope as he talks us through each principle.

What role will offsetting play in the journey to net zero? Join Sam Hope as he talks us through each principle.

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Introduction to Carbon Removal Offsets

11 mins 6 secs

Overview

We will need to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to meet climate goals. All scenarios in the IPCC Special Report rely on removing up to 730 billion tonnes of CO₂ by 2100. Scientists from the University of Oxford have created the Oxford Principles to show how net zero can be achieved through carbon offsets. This involves reducing emissions, using certified offsets, removing more carbon from the atmosphere than is currently being emitted, locking carbon away indefinitely and forming industry standards to ensure adherence.

Key learning objectives:

  • Understand the role of offsetting in net zero

  • Identify the 4 Oxford Principles for net zero aligned offsetting

  • Outline why carbon removal credits are needed

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Summary

What role will offsetting play in the journey to net zero? 

We will need to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to meet climate goals. All scenarios in the IPCC Special Report rely on removing up to 730 billion tonnes of CO₂ by 2100. This is nearly 15 times current annual greenhouse gas emissions. Alongside emissions reduction, offsetting using carbon removal can fulfil three major functions:

1. Carbon dioxide removal can reduce net emissions in the near term

2. Carbon dioxide removal can rebalance residual emissions to achieve net-zero in the medium term

3. If removals exceed emissions, carbon dioxide removal can achieve net-negative emissions in the longer term

What are the 4 Oxford Principles to achieve Net Zero Aligned Offsetting? 

The Oxford Principles for Net Zero Aligned Offsetting are a set of guidelines developed by climate scientists from the University of Oxford, which demonstrate how a net zero society can be achieved through the utilisation of carbon offsets and the voluntary carbon market. Their guidance helps organisations to understand what types of offsets are acceptable under what use cases to ensure offsetting actually helps to achieve a net zero society.

– Principle 1: Reduce emissions, use certified offsets, and use best practices for offsetting strategies

– Principle 2: Remove more carbon from the atmosphere than is currently being emitted

– Principle 3: Carbon needs to be locked away indefinitely

– Principle 4: Industry standards to create net zero aligned carbon offsetting

Why do we need carbon removal credits? 

Avoidance credits make up >95% of overall credit supply in the Voluntary Carbon Market (e.g. forest conservation and solar farms). The credit is given to projects that wouldn't have otherwise been viable and prevent further emissions released into the atmosphere through a business as usual scenario. To achieve net zero we need carbon removal credits, where greenhouse gases are taken out of the atmosphere and stored permanently. We need to help the VCM scale by a factor of 15 and transition its supply to deliver >95% carbon removal credits to the market in the next 25 years. When shifting from avoidance to removals, we will also transition from short-lived to long-lived carbon removal projects, which will guarantee the permanence and non-reversal of the claim. 

 

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Sam Hope

Sam Hope

Sam Hope is the Senior Carbon Advisor at Plannet Zero, a tech company dedicated to developing smart carbon footprinting software for SMEs. He joins from Redshaw Advisors, an advisory firm that will help organisations clearly understand the assignment of net zero.

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