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Carbon Markets & Offsets Guidance

This document was developed as a resource for higher education institutions implementing one of the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments. It outlines the concept of carbon offsets, how offsetting can be used in the context of climate action planning and achieving carbon neutrality, and what constitutes a quality carbon offset project. It also includes guidelines for the use of different types of carbon offsets to meet the Climate or Carbon Commitment requirements.

The Carbon Markets & Offsets Guidance was developed by the Offset Technical Advisory Group, which was made up of signatory implementation liaisons and climate change professionals during the 2015-2016 academic year. 

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Strategy Development Decision Tree

This decision tree is designed to help campuses determine which types of carbon offsets (peer-reviewed or innovative through the Offset Network, or traditional 3rd party verified through the voluntary carbon market) are best aligned with institutional goals. It is also designed to help campuses consider whether they should develop new carbon offset projects, or purchase offsets through existing projects. Many campuses will utilize a variety of different offset types at different points during implementation of the Climate Leadership Commitments.

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Carbon Offset Project Types 101

This document gives a brief overview of common types of carbon offset projects and provides examples of each. Understanding the types of activities that can generate carbon offsets can aid campuses in evaluating offset purchases and deciding which projects to support. This is a high-level overview of offset project types. For a more in-depth review of carbon offset projects, campuses should read the Carbon Markets & Offsets Guidance.

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Webinar: Purchasing Carbon Offsets 101

Watch this recorded webinar for an introduction to purchasing carbon offsets through the voluntary carbon market. The webinar covers how schools can use verified carbon offsets to meet emissions reduction targets under the Climate Leadership Commitments, and the basics of how the voluntary carbon market works. Presenters also provide guidance for buying offsets, considerations when evaluating projects such as ways to increase local impact and project-related academic opportunities, and examples from schools that have recently completed offset purchases. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Visit this guidance for answers to frequently asked questions about purchasing carbon offsets in the context of the Climate Leadership Commitments. The guidance includes links to additional resources about the voluntary carbon market, and lists of companies that supply carbon offsets.

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