Carbon credit guidance for buyers

Definition of criteria for assessing the quality of carbon credits

Many countries, companies, organizations and individuals want to do their part to mitigate climate change by reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions. By purchasing carbon credits, they can offset emissions that they cannot reduce in the near term, allowing them to take more ambitious climate action.

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Carbon credits, or “offsets,” are issued by carbon crediting programs to the owners of mitigation activities, like a solar energy farm that displaces a highly-polluting energy source, or a protected rainforest that would otherwise have been cut down. These activities reduce emissions or enhance removals of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

But how does a buyer ensure the carbon credit they purchased is of “high quality?” Assessing and ensuring the quality of carbon credits is challenging in practice. Moreover, buyers that purchase low-quality carbon credits risk damaging both the atmosphere and their reputation.

Given the growing demand for carbon credits and the risks associated with low-quality carbon credits, practical and trusted guidance is critical to help carbon credit buyers navigate the complicated landscape and enable them to identify high-quality carbon credits. Environmental Defense Fund, World Wildlife Fund, and Oeko-Institut are therefore developing a “Carbon Credit Guidance for Buyers”.

As Phase 1 of this project, EDF, WWF, and Oeko-Institut have authored a paper that identifies six “quality objectives” for carbon credits, and elaborates specific criteria that can be used to evaluate credits against each of these quality objectives.

In advance of the guide’s release, the criteria in this document are intended to serve as high-level guidance for current and potential carbon credit buyers.

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