Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
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A carbon offset is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. More precisely, it is a reduction that is not required by law and would not have happened without the opportunity for financial support from the carbon offset market.
In today’s world, most of us cannot reduce our energy use to zero. Despite our best efforts, we all use some fossil-based energy—perhaps to heat our homes, power a computer, or fly to visit family. So we produce carbon emissions. The only way for us to be carbon neutral is to reduce an equivalent amount of greenhouse gas pollution somewhere outside the scope of our own activities.
For example, by purchasing carbon offsets, we can help build a wind turbine at a school that otherwise couldn’t afford one. This will make the coal plant down the road produce less energy, reducing carbon emissions in the process.
To the extent that you can’t reduce your own emissions, you can reduce them at another location. Those reductions “offset” your own emissions, giving you a net zero carbon footprint.
Arguably, a ton of CO2 reduced is a ton of CO2 reduced, period. We think there are other considerations, though.
The first consideration is whether that ton was going to be reduced anyway. Was the carbon-reducing project made possible by the opportunity to receive money for its carbon offsets? To generate genuine offsets, the project must go beyond business as usual.
A second consideration is what you want your purchase to accomplish. Many carbon offsets, even though they come from projects that are additional to business as usual, are generated by projects that already exist. Purchasing these offsets rewards the project and helps build market demand for carbon projects. With our Help Build™ carbon offsets, you can actually help build new projects.
Finally, it is important to ask if the project produces additional benefits. We focus on Native American, family farm, and other projects that help create sustainable economies for communities in need. Many projects also help protect watersheds, improve air quality, and maintain wildlife habitat.
Yes. NativeEnergy only purchases carbon offsets that are or will be approved by a third party (“validated” is the formal term) under one of the internationally recognized standards, like the Verified Carbon Standard, Gold Standard, Climate Action Reserve, Clean Development Mechanism, or Joint Implementation under the Kyoto Protocol. We follow the standards’ specific protocols for how to measure the carbon reductions that various project types produce. Then, once a project is operating, its actual carbon reductions are reviewed and “verified” by a third party that is qualified under the applicable standard.
“Additionality” means that a carbon project goes beyond business as usual. It is a project that is not required by law, and it could not have been built without the opportunity to receive carbon credit revenues.
Lots of things reduce carbon emissions, and would do so regardless of the existence of the market for carbon offsets. Nuclear power plant upgrades, new natural gas plants, money saving efficiency measures, and no-till agriculture—all reduce carbon emissions, but those things often are done for reasons other than reducing CO2 and would be done regardless of the availability of revenues for the carbon reductions.
High quality carbon offsets reduce carbon pollution above and beyond what would have happened anyway. That's why a carbon credit has to be generated by a project that meets two tests:
1. It must have faced one or more barriers to implementation or operation; and
2. Those barriers must have been overcome by the opportunity to receive revenues for the carbon reductions.
Offsets must be permanent, measurable, and unique.
The reductions cannot be undone. The reductions must be accurately quantified. The reductions can be claimed by only one entity.
Carbon offset standards ensure permanence and accuracy of measurement. Carbon offset registries ensure that multiple parties don’t claim the same reductions.
Some critics argue that carbon offsets are just permission to pollute. But the reality is that most people can’t avoid using some fossil fuel-based energy. Sometimes we need to fly to a wedding, for example, or heat our homes with natural gas or oil. Most of us still drive gas-powered vehicles. For the activities that we can’t avoid, carbon offsets are an effective and practical way to reduce our carbon emissions.
In our experience, the companies and individuals that purchase carbon offsets act responsibly. They engage in multiple activities that address resource use, like recycling, driving efficient vehicles, and using energy-efficient lights and appliances. Because reducing carbon emissions is voluntary for individuals and many businesses, the idea that the people and firms who buy offsets are bad actors trying to buy forgiveness is inaccurate.
Most carbon offsets are sold year-by-year from projects that are already built and operating. These offsets help project investors recover their investment and support the market for carbon projects.
This approach to the market works for many projects, but it has a weakness: lots of smaller, community-based projects can’t get funded if they have to wait for year-by-year offset revenues. Instead, with Help Build™ carbon offsets, our customers purchase a project’s long-term carbon reductions upfront. This provides critical financing that enables project construction.
Help Build™ carbon offsets fix a market failure that is preventing the development of many high quality community-based projects.
Careful screening. Our supply team estimates that they evaluate 10 or more projects for every one that meets our requirements. For us to commit to help build a project, it must not be able to go forward or operate successfully without our financial commitment. In addition, it must have a substantial likelihood of successful implementation or operation with our financial commitment: it must meet the requirements of one of the leading carbon offset standards, and it must have other benefits for the community in which it is located.
Central to the Help Build™ model is committing to invest in new carbon projects while they are still being developed, when some uncertainties remain. If your project is not built with NativeEnergy's support for any reason, your purchase price will transfer to an alternate Help Build™ project within one year following the date by which your target project was to come on line. For more details, view Terms & Conditions.
For each of our Help Build™ projects, we have a third party validate the project’s expected carbon offset production over the term of our purchase, which is typically 10 years. We don’t sell all of the expected carbon offset production. Instead, we reserve a portion in a separate “buffer pool.” The buffer pool is typically the expected generation during the last year or two of our contract with the project (the buffer period).
If the project produces more than the amount we sold before that buffer period begins, we will retire that excess production for you. If your project doesn’t produce the amount we sold by the time that buffer period begins, we will retire carbon offsets from your project’s buffer for you. If your project’s buffer isn’t enough to provide all the carbon offsets we sold from your project, we will draw from other projects’ buffers and retire them for you. We will manage this overall portfolio of project buffers so that there is a 99% probability that more carbon offsets are produced and available to you than we originally estimated.
NativeEnergy was founded in 2000. Help Build™ projects were first available for sale in 2001.
With our Help Build™ carbon offsets, you can help build new carbon projects that need your funding and that benefit local communities. At the same time, we also offer conventional carbon offsets in substantial volumes to our business customers. We're the choice of leading brands and organizations. We’re transparent about what we do and how we do it, and all of our projects are vetted and approved by independent third parties as meeting the toughest independent standards for carbon credits.