Carbon Offsets Round 2

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In 1988, Applied Energy Services (now AES) planned to build small coal-fired powerplants around the United States, selling the electricity to local utilities. But the CEO of AES, Roger Sant, was concerned about climate change. He approached the Washington, DC based World Resources Institute (WRI) to explore whether AES could do anything to mitigate the climate change impacts of its business model. The result of that consultation was AES’s decision to fund carbon offset projects.

Not surprisingly, a number of companies, particularly electric utilities early on, enthusiastically embraced the idea of offsets. They seemed to be an inexpensive way to respond to growing stakeholder concerns over climate change, and many companies were already seeing offsets as a way to make compliance with future climate change policies and regulations more cost-effective.

But those climate change policies and regulations never materialized, at least in the United States. Individuals were slow to purchase offsets for their cars and airline flights, and companies that had originally embraced offsets became increasingly concerned about the environmental integrity and climate justice challenges to carbon offsets. By 2015 the future role of offsets in mitigating climate change was far from clear.

But then the climate change conversation took a whole new turn. Suddenly, everything is about the "net zero" or "negative emissions" pathways needed to get to a 1.5°C or 2.0°C scenario. Companies are announcing voluntary “net zero” commitments that depend heavily on carbon offsets. Carbon Offsets Round 2 is underway.

The Task Force on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets (TSVCM) led by Mark Carney is promoting Carbon Offsets Round 2 by promoting the idea that voluntary offset markets need to increase in size by 100 to 200-fold to achieve climate targets. The Task Force has issued a Consultation Document.

This Climate Site explores the idea of radically expanding voluntary offset markets, based on the premise that any effort to scale carbon markets should take full advantage of the 30 years of carbon offset experience accumulated during Carbon Offsets Round 1, which extended from 1988 to roughtly 2015.

This Climate Site extracts information from the Climate Web, built to facilitate access to the actionable climate knowledge needed by individuals, companies, and policy-makers for tackling the entire "wicked problem" of climate change. The Climate Web is an open-access knowledgebase based on the work of thousands and experts, and the closest thing to a collective climate intelligence existing today.

The Climatographers welcome your questions and suggestions regarding this micro-website and the “Round 1Findings” we’ve proposed.

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