A Brief Primer On Carbon Offsets
Carbon offsets are the market-based tool through which individuals and organizations support projects which counteract the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions which they haven’t yet been able to eliminate themselves. When you purchase carbon offsets, you are indirectly compensating others for the performing the service of removing your unavoidable carbon pollution from the atmosphere.
Carbon offsets are also referred to as carbon credits and Verified Emissions Reductions or “VER’s.” VER’s are verified and issued in increments of 1 metric tonne (2,205 pounds) of projected CO2 sequestration, and they are tracked on the centralized Markit Environmental Registry. Carbon credit “retirement” is the event when credits are permanently de-listed from the Markit registry on behalf of a buyer. This means they cannot be re-sold, and that’s when an offset transaction to a project, through COTAP, technically becomes official.
The Service Of Removing Your Unavoidable CO2 Pollution
By buying offsets, you are addressing your personal responsibility for global warming (from driving, flying, and home energy use) while economically supporting the project(s) and people whose activities create those VERs. Carbon offsets can therefore be viewed as a service, not unlike the way that you pay others who specialize in handling your garbage and sewage.
Even though your carbon dioxide emissions are a colorless and odorless gas, they are just as “real” and can be accurately measured, tracked, and removed. Unlike traditional pollution removal services, carbon offsetting is voluntary and indirect: Those who perform the service do not need to be physically located in your area – as long as their activities result in the permanent removal and storage of your unavoidable carbon pollution from our shared atmosphere.
A General Diagram of How COTAP Works (click to enlarge)
A More Detailed Explanation
Through COTAP, you are indirectly paying vulnerable farming communities for the service of removing your unavoidable carbon pollution. They do this by planting and maintaining trees on under-utilized portions of their land which will result in the long-term sequestration of carbon dioxide. VERs are issued to our partners on the Markit Registry as farmers tree plantings and growth are monitored and verified by third parties.
COTAP pools carbon offset transactions from individuals and organizations, periodically arranges for its partners to retire credits on the Markit registry, and makes all details of its transactions public. COTAP makes all of its partner transaction details public in the Transparency section of our website.
Farmers are paid over time as their plantings are successfully managed according to their project plan. Farmers’ earnings from carbon credits are front-loaded and paid over a period of 7 to 10 years for carbon sequestration which is projected to take place over the course of 25 or more years. In addition to carbon earnings, farmers also benefit from cash crops from their trees, improved food and fuel security, improved soil quality, and reduced soil erosion.
Every COTAP Project Is Unique
The above diagram should be viewed as one which applies to most aspects of most COTAP projects. Forest carbon project activity varies considerably in terms of project size, carbon accounting standard, project methodology, stage, location, and the number of people benefiting. For example, COTAP seeks to support early-stage projects which have not yet commenced planting, as well as projects that have many successful planting seasons under their belts.
In all cases, COTAP is fully committed to sharing and explaining and each project’s idiosyncracies, ongoing monitoring of environmental and community performance, and regularly reporting such performance through both third-party audits and COTAP’s own site visits and stakeholder interviews.
Please see our Transparency section for more detailed information about COTAP’s margins, details about our past partner disbursals, how vintages work, and a detailed example of how an actual COTAP offset transaction was allocated, paid for, and retired.