Climate Change: Carbon Offset Program

Voluntary and Compliance Approaches in Reforestation Projects

Voluntary approaches to carbon offsets from reforestation, such as those offered by The Nature Conservancy, are similar in many ways to the rules for “compliance” offsets established under mandatory policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But they differ in a few important respects. The table below shows some of the key similarities and differences.

This table does not take into account other types of carbon activity on which the Conservancy is working, particularly improved forest management, other habitat restoration, and crediting national-level approaches to reduce emissions from deforestation.

For more information on these and other issues pertaining to carbon offsets, please read our detailed Frequently Asked Questions. 

Additionality The amount of carbon dioxide captured, stored or prevented from reaching the atmosphere is beyond business-as-usual.
Measurement Field measurements of forest growth are undertaken once every five years, and will be based upon well-established forest inventory and scientific principles. These measurements will be made available for review.
Leakage Projects are prioritized where current land management practices are relatively unproductive to reduce the potential that activities will be displaced. Any remaining leakage is estimated and subtracted from the total offsets.
Permanence The Conservancy holds a conservation easement on the project that will restrict future use of the land to maintain forests. In addition, a percentage of offsets are placed into a reserve to account for any natural or other unanticipated losses of carbon that could occur in the future.
Similar approaches are possible, but in a compliance program, liability or additional insurance would need to be in place in case of the unlikely event that losses are beyond the reserve.
Verification The Conservancy is pursuing third-party certification under Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) for carbon storage in the projects.
Very similar, but using standards dictated by regulations.
Offsets and Crediting Contribution is sought today for offsets that will will be created over the course of 70 years. Crediting will not happen until the offset has occurred and been verified.



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