Carbon Markets, Knowledge Hub

Updated Oxford carbon offsetting principles seek VCM regulation

forest fire
The updated version of the principles emphasises the importance of using durable means of carbon storage that limit the risk of removed carbon being released back into the atmosphere, as can happen during forest fires, for example (Photo: Gilitukha/Envato)

‘Hardly any of the carbon market removes and stores carbon at all,’ say the Oxford Offsetting Principles authors, as they call for the standards to be embedded in net zero laws

The authors of the Oxford Offsetting Principles, a set of standards designed to help companies and governments use carbon offsets, have called on organisations to publicly back the regulation of the voluntary carbon market.

An updated version of the principles urges organisations to prioritise reducing carbon emissions and to minimise the need for offsetting. It also emphasises the importance of using durable means of carbon storage that limit the risk of removed carbon being released back into the atmosphere, as can happen during forest fires, for example. Restoring ecosystems such as woodlands or marine habitats or injecting carbon into rock formations deep underground may hold the key to long-lasting carbon storage, the report says.

The VCM is largely unregulated, and the authors of the principles are calling for them to be embedded into net zero regulations. “Organisations can and should … signal their support for public regulation of the voluntary carbon market,” the paper says.

“The revised principles are designed to correct some critical carbon market failures,” says Kaya Axelsson, co-author and head of policy and partnerships at the Oxford Net Zero research initiative. 

“One little-known fact is that hardly any of the carbon market removes and stores carbon at all,” she continues. “Currently, the majority of carbon credits are for avoided emissions, and these are often over-credited or have trouble proving that they had an impact beyond what would have happened anyway.”   

You can find the updated principles here.

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