Carbon Offsets – When Done Right – Can Reduce Emissions and Support the Paris Agreement: EDF and ENGIE Impact

New recommendations can mobilize credible voluntary carbon market climate action and ensure its contribution to Paris Agreement goals

December 17, 2020
Raul Arce-Contreras,, +1-240-480-1545

High quality carbon offsets can help businesses meet their voluntary climate goals and increasingly support the goals of the Paris climate agreement, according to a new publication from Environmental Defense Fund with ENGIE Impact

Mobilizing Voluntary Carbon Markets to Drive Climate Action lays out a first-ever series of recommendations for how companies can use offsets in order to meet their net zero climate targets and their commitments to the Paris Agreement, which just marked its five-year anniversary. It’s the result of a year-long process led by EDF and ENGIE Impact to convene more than 50 key players in the voluntary carbon market – including nearly 10 major companies; international non-governmental organizations; and voluntary carbon market standards. 

The recommendations come as the voluntary carbon market reaches its highest demand in half a decade on the back of an upsurge in companies setting net zero carbon goals. 

“Offsets can provide real, credible emissions reductions that help companies and the world address the climate crisis. But not all offsets are created equal, and there can be legitimate questions about their validity and whether they’re helping or hurting the climate,” said co-author Kelley Kizzier, EDF’s Associate Vice President for International Climate, and former EU climate negotiator for the Paris Agreement. 

“These recommendations were designed to help the private sector address these hurdles, navigate the carbon offsets landscape, and accelerate the use of offsets to accelerate emissions reductions,” said Kizzier. “Today’s recommendations are a start, but as a new EDF analysis on corporate pathways to net zero emissions reveals, there’s still a lot of hard work ahead. The commitment of this group has shown there is a strong and authentic desire to get it right.”

EDF, with expert support from ENGIE Impact, over the last year virtually convened more than 50 representatives from major non-governmental organizations, international organizations, voluntary carbon market standards and companies. 

Four former UN climate negotiators who were instrumental in the design and passage of key provisions of the Paris Agreement, with decades of combined experience in carbon markets, led the series of meetings which resulted in the recommendations. 

The authors note that it is critical that the voluntary carbon market is designed to not only deliver high-integrity carbon offsets, but to contribute to emerging national and international climate action and the goals of the Paris Agreement. Other recommendations center around:

  • how carbon offsets can make a credible contribution to climate strategies
  • how voluntary offset markets dock into international accounting systems under the Paris Agreement
  • advances in quality and transparency necessary in the post 2020 context

“High quality carbon markets have an important role to play in the implementation of the Paris Agreement,” said co-author Alexia Kelly, Director of Sustainability Solutions at ENGIE Impact and former U.S. climate negotiator for the Paris Agreement. “Many companies are looking to carbon offsets to make immediate and meaningful progress to reduce their emissions while they design and implement strategies to achieve their long-term climate change commitments. Governments and these voluntary market actors will need to work together to ensure that collective ambition continues to increase and that these markets are working together to drive climate change mitigation outcomes.” 

Mark Carney, the UN special envoy for climate and former governor of the Bank of England, has cited the voluntary offset market as an “imperative” to help reduce global emissions to net zero.

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