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Carbon Glossary

Additionality

To avoid giving credits to projects that would have happened anyway, rules have been specified to ensure additionality of the project i.e. to ensure the project reduces emissions more than would have occurred in the absence of the project.  A project is additional if its proponents can document that realistic alternative scenarios to the proposed project would be more economically attractive or that the project faces barriers that carbon finance helps it overcome.

‘Business-as-usual’ scenario

A description of what would most likely have occurred in the absence of a carbon offset project, also referred to as the ‘baseline scenario’.

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

A naturally occurring gas, and one of the most abundant greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide is also a by-product of industrial processes, burning fossil fuels and land use changes.

Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)

The unit of measurement used to compare the relative climate impact of the different greenhouse gases. The CO2e quantity of any greenhouse gas is the amount of carbon dioxide that would produce the equivalent global warming potential.

Carbon footprint

A carbon footprint is the total set of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an organisation, event or product.  For simplicity of reporting, it is often expressed in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide, or its equivalent of other GHGs, emitted.

Carbon neutral

Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered, avoided or offset.

Carbon offset

Carbon offsets are the ‘currency’ for offsetting. They are quantified in metric ton of CO2e reductions, i.e. one carbon offset equals one ton of emissions reductions made through selected and verified carbon projects. Carbon offsets can be purchased on a voluntary basis or to meet regulatory requirements.

Carbon offset project

A third party verified project which utilises proven clean technologies including, hydropower, wind power and methane capture, to generate carbon offsets.

Carbon offset standard

A standard that helps to ensure that carbon offset projects meet certain quality requirements, such as additionality and third party verification. Several offset standards exist within the voluntary and compliance carbon markets and each has a different set of requirements depending on its focus and scope.

Certified emission reduction (CER)

Certified Emission Reduction – a carbon credit created by a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project.  One CER corresponds to one ton of CO2e emission reductions.

Climate change

A change in global climate attributed directly or indirectly to human activity and in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.

Compliance carbon market

The segment of the carbon market for carbon offset transactions which meet regulatory requirements i.e. offsets purchased by governments and organisations to meet Kyoto targets.

Double counting

When two or more individuals or organisations claim ownership of specific emission reductions or carbon offsets.

Global warming

The increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s surface as a result of the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Global warming potential (GWP)

Global warming potential (GWP) is a measure of how much a given amount of greenhouse gas is estimated to contribute to global warming, relative to the same amount of carbon dioxide. See CO2e.

Greenhouse gas (GHG)

Greenhouse gases are gases in the atmosphere that absorb and emit infrared radiation. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse gas effect. The main greenhouse gases are water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone.

Kyoto Protocol

An international protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), that requires industrialised country signatories to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets relative to their 1990 levels.

Leakage

When an emission reduction from a carbon offset project in one area causes an increase in emissions somewhere outside of the project scope i.e. where conserving a forest in one region shifts logging activity to another area of forest.

Permanence

An offset quality criteria which relates to the robustness and durability of the emission reduction generated by a carbon offset project.

Registry

A publicly accessible database that tracks ownership of carbon offsets over their lifetime.

Retire

To permanently remove carbon offsets from market to ensure that they are not re-sold.  Offsets are usually retired by giving them individual serial numbers and placing them in an official registry.

Unique ownership

The concept of clear ownership rights to the emission reductions that a carbon offset represents, therefore avoiding more than one individual or organisation claiming the benefit of the reduction.  See double counting and retire.

Validation

An independent assessment of the carbon offset project design and baseline calculations by an accredited third-party auditor that takes place before the project activity is underway.

Verification

An independent assessment of quantification of actual emission reductions achieved by a carbon offset project, carried out by an accredited third-party auditor after the project is underway.

Verified emission reduction (VER)

Verified Emission Reductions (VER) – a carbon credit created by a project which has been verified outside of the Kyoto Protocol.  One VER corresponds to one ton of CO2e emission reductions.

Voluntary carbon market

The segment of the carbon market for carbon offset transactions outside of government-related regulatory schemes i.e. offsets purchased by organisations wishing to offset their carbon on a voluntary basis.