UK Government announces Code of Best Practice for consumer carbon offset schemes
The UK's Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn
Wed 20 Feb 2008 – The UK’s Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, has announced the final structure of a Code of Best Practice for the consumer voluntary carbon offset market. Accreditation procedures are still to be worked out with the sector and a quality mark is currently being developed for use when the first products are accredited later this year.
The Code will affect a growing number of airlines, and some airports, who offer passengers the option of offsetting the carbon emissions of their flights, and accreditation and use of the quality mark is not restricted to UK-based companies.
Backing the practice of carbon offsetting, Benn said: “If people are trying to reduce their impact on the climate, the first thing they should do is find ways to reduce their carbon footprint. But realistically, there are emissions that can’t or won’t be avoided, and that is where offsetting can play an important role.
“That’s why the Government is developing a Code of Practice and a quality mark for high-quality offsetting products to help businesses and individuals act on CO2.”
As a starting point, said Benn, the Code would initially only cover offsetting products using Kyoto-compliant credits. “I think it is right that we set a high standard,” he explained. “It’s important that consumers who want to buy carbon offsets with confidence can do just that. When a consumer buys a tonne of carbon with the Government’s quality mark, they will know they are buying a full tonne of carbon.
“However, we recognize that credits from the unregulated market may be innovative and of a very high standard. So we are leaving the Code open to high-quality voluntary offsetting products, provided the industry can provide a similar level of assurance about the standard of the credits.
“The challenge to the offsetting industry is clear: to establish a clear, rigorous standard for voluntary projects that deals with the concerns that have been raised.”
The principles that will need to be addressed by an industry standard are:
·additionality – meaning that the carbon savings must be in addition to reductions that would be made anyway;
·avoiding carbon leakage – or emissions avoided on one site simply being moved elsewhere;
·permanence – ensuring that emissions reductions were not simply put off until later;
·verification systems for emissions reductions;
·transparency on the methodologies and procedures used; and
·avoiding double counting – ensuring that emissions counted in an offset product are not counted elsewhere, for example as savings through an emissions trading scheme.
Once an industry consensus has been reached on a standard for voluntary credits and it has been fully operational for six months, the Government has asked that an independent audit is carried out.
The Government has appointed AEA Energy & Environment to become the accreditation body for the Code. AEA has issued the final draft of the Code for industry comment on the accreditation procedures. Comments must be made by midday 31 March 2008 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The scheme is to be self-funding and the proposal is that offset providers should pay an initial accreditation fee of £4,500 ($8,800) plus an annual fee of £2,000 ($3,900).