What is the future of voluntary carbon offsetting and “climate neutrality”?

The resolutions of the climate conference – COP26 – in Glasgow have brought greater clarity about implementation of the Paris Agreement. The importance of international cooperation in climate protection as well as the significance of market mechanisms and the voluntary contributions of business and private individuals were not only recognised, but strengthened through the robust rules planned. myclimate is monitoring the introduction and implementation of these rules, along with the development of the structures they require, and is actively involved in shaping these within the scope of its own possibilities. At the same time, myclimate is working with partners and customers so it can continue to make the greatest impact for climate protection globally and locally.

In the following, myclimate presents an overview of the current changes and developments. We also show what these mean today and in the future for our partners from business, but also for the many individuals who support myclimate.

The Paris Agreement and the results of COP26 in Glasgow

Market-based approaches for international efforts to reduce carbon emissions are defined by Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. The specific form of this article has been the subject of tough negotiations over the last few years. It was only at COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021 that the member states were able to agree on the specific rules for the implementation of this crucial building block of the Paris Agreement, six years after it was adopted. Now it is up to the nation states, businesses and society to act in line with the specifications and with ever-greater awareness.

The Paris Agreement affirms that the signatories commit to binding targets for CO₂ reduction, ever-increasing ambition, and the goal of net zero. At the same time, there is also emphasis on the importance of contributions from companies and private individuals to international climate protection. Roles and rules have been formalised for this within the framework of the Paris Agreement, not least with Article 6. 

The rules laid down in Article 6 (Paris Rulebook) are intended to prevent double counting (resp. double claiming) of emissions reductions, not only between states (Article 6.2) but also for projects in the voluntary market (Article 6.4) for companies and private individuals. To make sure of this, the signatories to the Paris Agreement have designated respective authorities (Designated National Authorities – DNAs) for the creation and administration of CO₂ accounting. Emissions reductions achieved through voluntary efforts by companies and individuals are to be removed from this national registry and thus cannot contribute to the country achieving its target. These entries in the countries’ CO₂ accounting are referred to as “corresponding adjustments”.

 

myclimate projects and the availability of offsetting under these new rules

myclimate has sought to offer such emissions reductions (ERs) with corresponding adjustments as quickly and as comprehensively as possible for the projects in its own portfolio since the climate conference in Glasgow. For this, we remain in close contact with our project partners on the ground.  

As of now, May 2022, however, the work of the aforementioned authorities (DNAs) is still in development. We therefore cannot yet say when it will actually be possible to issue ERs with corresponding adjustments.

The most important objective for myclimate is still supporting the existing projects with their extensive contributions to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and contributing to their growth. Not only do these projects achieve concrete CO₂ reductions worldwide and thus contribute directly to climate protection, but they also demonstrably and measurably protect local ecosystems and improve the living conditions of people on the ground in a variety of ways. These efforts towards sustainable developments must still be pursued – all the more so because (more) action is urgently needed for climate protection.

 

Impacts for myclimate business customers and private individuals 

Nothing will initially change for our customers. Collaboration with us still means supporting projects with demonstrably broad impacts on the climate that have been certified according to external quality standards and have undergone myclimate’s strict due diligence review. Until the corresponding adjustments are available, therefore, myclimate’s climate promise will in no wise change. We continue to offer offsetting of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the “myclimate neutral” label following successful, externally audited completion of a carbon footprint calculation.  

As soon as we can foresee that there will be a steadily growing range of emissions reductions with corresponding adjustments, we will enter into close dialogue with our existing customers. For certification with the “neutral” label following a transition period and given corresponding availability, emissions will have to be offset with corresponding adjustments.  

Our goal continues to be achieving as much effective climate protection as possible.

 

Offsetting, market mechanisms and climate protection

In 2020, voluntary climate protection in the form of CO₂ offsetting and support for reduction or sink projects achieved more concrete climate protection than ever before*, as is clearly confirmed in the latest Emissions Gap Report by the UN Environment Program (UNEP). In view of developments thus far, these voluntary contributions are needed more than ever, because even if all the pledges and intentions are met at state or international level, there still remains far too little time and money available for the climate than is needed to achieve the overarching goals of the Paris Agreement. 

The effectiveness and credibility of these climate protection efforts are ensured when each market participant likewise spares no effort within their own company and – if relevant – within their own supply chain to reduce and avoid emissions wherever they can be reduced and avoided.   

It is clear that only through market mechanisms will it be possible to achieve the urgently required, time-critical emissions reduction targets at a manageable cost. Carbon markets deliver climate protection and can provide for ambitious climate goals – IF there are clear rules and transparency! 

*See the report “State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2020”

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