Carbon offset code pushed back

The government has delayed its voluntary code of practice for carbon offsets until 2008 to avoid including cheap allowances from phase one of the EU emissions trading scheme (EUETS), the Environmental Audit Committee has heard.

The code was due to come into effect this autumn (ENDS Report 384, p 5 ), but plans to let phase one allowances qualify was criticised because they support industrial rather than development projects (ENDS Reports 385, p 46  , and 386, p 57 ).

Phase two begins in 2008 and will have more stringent caps on allowances. This should raise prices to bring them into line with those for other offsets.

Jackie Janes, head of climate and energy at the Environment Department (DEFRA), defended plans that offsets should only qualify under the code if the emissions reductions occur within six months.

"From an environmental integrity point of view, I think it is important that the reduction has already taken place," she said. "That is what the consumer expects when they buy an offset."

Offset provider Climate Care says it takes "five to seven years" to achieve emission reductions.

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