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Green-e Climate Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a carbon offset?

A: A carbon offset is an environmental commodity that represents the reduction of a specific amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In the voluntary market, offsets are purchased to counteract or diminish the impact of the purchaser’s GHG emissions. Offsets are generated from (i.e. emissions are reduced at) single project-based activities or standardized programmes of activities located around the world where measurement, reporting, and verification of reductions can occur. This provides flexibility and cost abatement for those who seek to reduce emissions by expanding the geographical locations and sources of possible reductions. By purchasing an offset, the consumer alone has the right to all associated claims about the GHG reduction it embodies. By purchasing offsets, consumers stimulate market demand for GHG emissions reductions and emissions reduction projects, which helps mitigate the effect of climate change.

Green-e Climate Certified offsets are real, verified and permanent GHG emissions reductions from additional projects, not donations or investments in future projects, the sales and exclusive delivery of which has been independently verified.

Q: What does Green-e Climate certify? How can I become certified?

A: Green-e Climate certifies retail carbon offsets sold in the voluntary market, as opposed to the project reducing emissions or the verified emissions reduction credits from the project (though project-level certifications are incorporated into and in fact required by Green-e Climate). Offset providers and other retail sellers of offsets can sign up to have their offsets Green-e Climate Certified. Only sellers participating in the program are able to sell Green-e Climate Certified offsets and use the Green-e Climate logo.

Sellers interested in having their offsets Green-e Climate certified, should first read Become a Seller. If you have any questions during the process, please email climate [at] green-e [dot] org or call 415-561-2100 for more information.

Q: What makes Green-e Climate different from other standards and certification programs Iíve heard of, and why is Green-e Climate certification important?

A:
Green-e Climate is the only independent, third-party certification program that makes sure that offsets that are sold in the voluntary market are legitimate. There are several established standards for offset projects, including the Gold Standard, the Verified Carbon Standard, the Climate Action Reserve, and the American Carbon Registry, among others. These project standards and verification programs ensure legitimate supply and are one essential piece of what is needed for a robust market. But, consumers of intangible commodities also need assurances around the seller and the retail transaction, including:

  1. Assurance that offsets being sold and delivered come from high-quality project standards;
  2. Assurance that the reductions are not being double sold or incorrectly delivered; and
  3. Assurance that they are given full and accurate information about what they are buying.

Green-e Climate streamlines all of these vital pieces into a single certification mark that consumers can see and trust. It sets the standard for which of the project standards and protocols are most robust, limits supply to only these endorsed project certification programs, requires verification of ownership and sales, and ensures full disclosure and accurate offset information to the consumer.

Q: I have a project (forestry, energy efficiency, renewable energy, etc), or an idea for a new type of project that reduces emissions. Can you certify it?

A:
No. Green-e Climate certifies GHG emission reductions (offsets) sold in the market, not the projects that generate them. One requirement for participating sellers of Certified Offsets is that the GHG emission reductions must be sourced from projects validated and registered with an endorsed project standard and certification program. If you are a project developer seeking certification, you should contact one of our Endorsed Programs.

Q: Does Green-e Climate include requirements regarding carbon calculators and the calculation methodology of emission "footprints"?

A:
The program does not identify specific requirements for emissions calculations methodologies at present. But it does require that participating sellers of Certified Offsets that host an online carbon calculator make their inputs available to the public—including emission factors, assumptions, and methodologies used to calculate emissions from specific activities—and that they use authoritative and credible data sources, for example government agencies such as the U.S. EPA, intergovernmental agencies such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or reputable NGOs such as the World Resources Institute.

Q: What is additionality?

A: See the definition in the Green-e Dictionary.

Q: What is the difference between a renewable energy certificate (REC) and a carbon offset?

A:
A REC is an environmental commodity representing the renewable attributes of one megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable electricity generation. A carbon offset is an environmental commodity representing the reduction of a specific quantity of GHG emissions (in units of carbon dioxide equivalent, CO2e). RECs and carbon offsets are both environmental commodities, but they are measured in different units, traded in different markets, have different end uses and can be generated from different project types. For more information, see Renewable Energy Certificates, Carbon Offsets, and Carbon Claims: Best Practices and Frequently Asked Questions (April 2012).

Q: What is the difference between Green-e Energy and Green-e Climate?

A:
Green-e Energy is North America’s leading independent certification for renewable energy sold in the voluntary market. Green-e Energy certifies renewable energy products including utility green pricing programs, competitive electricity products, and RECs, the sales of which are measured in megawatt hours (MWhs). Green-e Climate is a certification program for GHG emissions reductions  (carbon offsets) sold in the voluntary carbon market, which are sold in metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e).

Q: How can I reduce my carbon footprint?

A:
There are many websites that can help you assess your current carbon footprint, including calculators at the World Resources Institute and the U.S. EPA. An important first step to reducing your carbon footprint is to reduce your energy consumption as much as possible. After you have reduced what you can, a good second step is to switch to renewable electricity. Finally, Green-e Climate Certified Offsets can be used to counteract unavoidable emissions.

Q: What is the geographical scope of Green-e Climate?

A:
Green-e Climate is an international program. Any offset purchaser, regardless of location, can buy Green-e Climate certified carbon offsets. Any seller/retailer of offsets, regardless of location, can participate in the program if they agree to abide by its quality and consumer protection criteria.

Q: Is it possible to sell GHG reductions from future projects (i.e. emission reductions that are not yet verified) as part of this program?

A:
Green-e Climate only certifies offsets comprising GHG emission reductions already verified and certified according to an Endorsed Program's protocols.

Q: Can a participating offset seller sell both certified and non-certified offsets?

A:
Yes. Green-e Climate does not certify offset sellers; rather, it certifies the carbon offsets that they sell. So participating sellers may choose to certify all or only a portion of what they sell. Green-e and CRS want to provide a service that assists consumers in making informed choices, not to make or dictate those choices for them.

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