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What are the main carbon offsetting programs and standards?

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

What is carbon offsetting?

Carbon offsetting is a financial mechanism that supports environmental projects by promoting the reduction or storage of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Emissions reduction can be achieved through initiatives such as financing and implementing low-carbon energy development projects. Carbon storage, also known as carbon sequestration, involves increasing natural carbon sinks, like forests, or using technology to create artificial carbon sinks.

When choosing carbon offsetting projects as a company, it is important to consider standards and labels to ensure their effectiveness and credibility. Carbon offsetting is a necessary mechanism, but it must be implemented within a certain framework.

What are carbon offsetting standards and programs?

Carbon offsetting standards and programs are guidelines and systems that are used to evaluate and certify carbon offset projects. These standards and programs ensure that the carbon offsetting projects being supported are legitimate and effective at reducing or removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The goals of these standards and programs are to:

  • Promote climate action through the verification and certification of carbon offset projects.

  • Ensure that the GHG emissions from projects are verifiable and measurable.

  • Establish a framework for voluntary carbon markets.

  • Contribute to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

Overall, carbon offset standards and programs are designed to ensure that carbon offset projects are effective at reducing or removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and contribute to sustainable development. Let’s dive into the main ones.

Carbon offset standards and programs

Learn about the major carbon offsetting standards and programs.



Verra is a leading provider of carbon offset labels, founded in 2007. It brings together several certification programs to support sustainability and climate action. Verra currently offers six standards and programs:

  • The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS): The most widely used standard in the world, covering sectors such as renewable energy, agriculture, and forestry. The project selection process is very thorough, and the VCS follows the requirements defined by ISO 14064-2: 2006, ISO 14064-3: 2006, and ISO 14065: 2007.

  • Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ (JNR): The JNR framework is a carbon accounting and crediting platform for governments to guide the development of their REDD+ programs.

  • Climate, Community & Biodiversity (CCB): This program identifies projects that combat global warming while supporting local communities, smallholders, and preserving biodiversity.

  • Sustainable Development Verified Impact Standard (SD VISta): This program defines criteria for implementing and evaluating projects that aim to have a significant impact on sustainable development.

  • Plastic Waste Reduction Program: This program evaluates the impact of plastic waste collection and recycling projects.

  • California Offset Project Registry: A standard for certifying carbon offset projects in California.

Over 1,800 projects have been certified under these programs, representing the equivalent of removing 206 million cars from the road for one year."

Gold Standard

gold standard-logo

The Gold Standard was created in 2003 by WWF and other international NGOs to ensure that carbon credits from mitigation projects are real, verifiable, and contribute to sustainable development. The Gold Standard is based on three pillars: environmental markets, corporate sustainability, and climate and development finance. It aims to implement numerous North-South cooperation projects.

Gold Standard projects not only have an environmental goal, but they must also consider the three pillars of sustainable development: environmental, social, and economic.

Nearly 2,300 projects in 98 countries have been certified under the Gold Standard, resulting in a reduction of almost 191 million tons of CO2e.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)


The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is a mechanism for financing carbon offset projects established under the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. One of its main goals is to contribute to the sustainable development of developing countries through the financing of projects by industrialized countries that reduce or sequester emissions in these countries. Companies from countries with commitments to reduce GHG emissions can participate in the financing of projects in countries without such commitments and receive carbon credits, also known as Certified Emission Reductions units (CERs), in return. The projects are validated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The CDM Executive Board approves and validates methodologies for various sectors such as energy, transportation, the tertiary sector, and agriculture. To date, nearly 250 methodologies have been approved under the CDM, which have helped to inform the development of other carbon offset standards.

Label bas-carbone (Low-carbon label)

label bas-carbone-logo

The Low Carbon Label was introduced by the French Ministry of Ecological Transition in 2019. Like other standards, projects supported by the Low Carbon Label must be additional. The labeled projects follow a methodology approved by the Ministry. Each sector has its own methodologies, and 11 have been approved to date (covering sectors such as building, agriculture, transport, and forestry) with around 20 more being studied.

230 projects have been certified by the Low Carbon Label in France.

In conclusion

Carbon offsetting standards and programs provide guidelines and systems for evaluating and certifying carbon offset projects. As a company, carbon offsetting can be a useful tool for offsetting a portion of your emissions once you have conducted a carbon footprint assessment. It is important to choose offsetting projects that follow established standards and labels to ensure their effectiveness.

However, it is also important to remember that carbon offsetting alone is not sufficient and must be accompanied by a concrete and effective plan to reduce emissions.


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