Second Nature announces a new initiative engaging higher education institutions across the nation to shape guidance and innovation with respect to carbon offsets:

The Offsets Advisory Council.

Attend the next meeting of the Offsets Advisory Council
March 23, 2023
1:00pm ET

Carbon offsets are an important part of many Climate Action Plans. As campuses take diverse approaches to meeting climate goals, questions and tensions abound when it comes to creating a sound offsets strategy. This advisory council is being convened to address these complexities. The Second Nature Offsets Advisory Council will be the space for experts within higher education to coalesce around topics of carbon pricing, offset purchasing, land management and inventorying of carbon stocks, and non-additional sequestration, among other topics. 

We recognize that faculty and staff often have limited capacity for this type of work, so our priority is to make meaningful strides in the evolution of offsets guidance and innovation with minimal commitment from advisory council members. Initially, the council will meet once per month as the group collectively determines its top priorities. If needed, the council can subdivide into smaller working groups where there is energy and leadership to continue deeper work around specific topics within the offsets sphere. We hope to recruit a diverse range of academics from a variety of disciplines and institutions.

Join the Offsets Advisory Council

Why an Offsets Advisory Council? Why now?
Since the beginning of the climate commitments in higher education, carbon pricing and offsets have been one way in which campuses have progressed toward sustainability goals. Campuses have taken a range of approaches. These include purchasing offsets on the voluntary market, leveraging internal carbon pricing or developing offset projects from major energy emissions reductions endeavors to fund sustainability projects, inventorying carbon stocks in campus landholdings to better manage emissions or understand sequestration, and developing unique carbon offset protocols and peer-reviewed offset projects. All of these approaches come with complexity.

Meanwhile, the ecosystem of the voluntary carbon market has been rapidly evolving, and the private sector produces start-ups at lightning speed, all promising to serve offset producers and purchasers. Higher education is in a unique position to interact with this reality, in a way that challenges its major pain points while also leveraging opportunities for innovation. The commitment to education, research, and workforce development within higher education can result in tangible, usable, credible, and influential progress within the voluntary market. 

Second Nature has worked with leaders within higher education on offsets resources in the past, and that work has led to sound guidance and education in this nascent space. In an effort to update and further develop that work, Second Nature hired a Carbon Offsets Fellow in November 2022 to facilitate current programming around offsets and develop an advisory council to determine real time and future needs. 

Second Nature’s Offset Advisory Council objectives are to make space for Second Nature to hear feedback from campuses about their offsets experiences and processes, create interactivity between campuses around some of the tougher questions that arise within the sphere of offsets, and ultimately to coalesce the expertise and innovative leadership within higher education to shape guidance and best practices going forward.

What does it mean to be an advisory council member?
The group will develop its own structure, activities, and outcomes so it isn’t easy to say, definitively, what you should expect. That being said,  based on the objectives, there will be a range of ways to participate: from listening to or providing feedback from your campus’ experience with offsets or offset-related topics (especially in the early days of the council), to taking on more of an expert role within the council to move guidance forward and/or help shape best practices based on group knowledge, findings, and consensus. 

The initial commitment is one meeting per month. As the group identifies top priorities, the structure and commitment may change, at which point members can determine how well-positioned they are to continue, and in what capacity. 

Who will be on the Council?
Members will hail from a broad range of institutions, including public and private colleges and universities, Historically-Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and community colleges. Some initial members have been identified either because of their noted expertise in offsets or offset-related research or practice. Other initial members have been identified based on their SIMAP reporting as either purchasers of carbon offsets on the voluntary market or campuses tracking non-additional sequestration from institutional landholdings. Members include academics as well as sustainability directors and staff.

What are the goals of the Advisory Council? 
Broadly speaking, the Advisory Council will work to achieve the following goals:

  1. Make space for sharing feedback about campus’ experiences and processes with respect to offsets 
  2. Create interactivity within higher education for discussion, debate, and consensus around complex issues within the offsets umbrella
  3. Develop updated guidance and determine priorities around higher education’s interaction with the voluntary market.

These initial goals have been developed around known opportunities within the topic of offsets in higher education. The group itself will establish its own priorities, and may determine different or additional objectives.

Offsets Advisory Council Upcoming Events:

March 23rd, 2023 1pm ET: Should Campus’ Participate in the Voluntary Carbon Market?
Campus representatives from several institutions share their decisions about whether to buy or sell offsets on the VCM, and the values behind those reasons. Discussion to follow. 


How do I join?
Joining the Advisory Council simply requires that you fill out this form. Once you have joined, you’ll be added to the list. If you have any questions, please reach out to Meredith Leigh, Second Nature’s Carbon Offsets Fellow, at [email protected].

Join the Offsets Advisory Council Now