Carbon offsets code finally launched

The Environment Department (DEFRA) launched its quality assurance scheme for carbon offsets last Friday – over two years after it consulted on proposals

DEFRA launched a website for the scheme, which includes guidance explaining how carbon offset providers can seek approval. AEA Energy & Environment is the scheme’s approval body, and is now accepting applications.

DEFRA hopes the scheme will improve standards in the market and increase consumer confidence in offsetting.

The guidance differs little from that issued a year ago. Controversially, it still excludes voluntary offsets. This means that anyone who wants to buy a government-approved offset is restricted to certified credits issued under regulatory regimes such as the EU emissions trading scheme and the Kyoto Protocol.

Voluntary offsets only get the briefest of mentions in the guidance. They may be allowed under the scheme “at a future point… subject to a satisfactory level of assurance becoming available about their quality”.

Such comments will be received poorly by offset providers. Many already operate to industry standards – such as the Voluntary Carbon Standard and the NGO-backed Gold Standard – and claim to meet tighter environmental criteria than certified credits.

A year ago, DEFRA said it would only accept voluntary offsets if firms agreed to develop a single industry standard. Although the government has now accepted this will not happen, it still does not consider allowing existing standards under the scheme.

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