How Urban Offsets Can Help With Your Peer-Reviewed and Innovative Carbon Projects

October 21, 2016

Second Nature revised their Carbon Offsetting Guidance and made significant changes to it. They, along with the Duke Carbon Offset Initiative (DCOI), The Oberlin Project and Tomorrow’s Climate Solutions, hosted a webinar to review those additions this week and the new version will be released soon.


Offset Network, Second Nature, The Oberlin Project, Tomorrow’s Climate Solutions, Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative

The History of Offsetting Guidance

The offset protocol and guidance was first released in 2008 in conjunction with the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). The first guidance focused mainly on how a signatory school could sift and prioritize project options that could potentially them meet their climate neutrality goals. The carbon offset market was a new and emerging one; the guidance document focused on how signatories could navigate their way through this “wildwest,

Why Change The 2008 Guidance?

Second Nature held an AASHE Conference session in 2015 focused on offsetting. Since 2008, carbon offset markets have begun to stabilize. Session attendees pointed out that they needed an incentive to try new types of offset projects in order to move the offset field forward. Many offsets projects then required prohibitively expensive for third-party verification. Second Nature assembled a technical advisory group to update the guidance document to allow “peer-reviewed” or “innovative” emission reductions count towards a college’s Climate Action Plan.

What do Peer-Reviewed and Innovative Offsets Mean?

“Peer-reviewed” projects are monitored through a peer-to-peer network to provide a verification at a lower cost than typical third-party review engagement. Just like a peer review in a scientific journal, peer institutions evaluate on the ground offsetting projects against a set standard. This opens avenues for hands-on educational opportunities for students and reduces the risk of that school is penalized for as a first-actor.

“Innovative” projects are more experimental. These projects must meet a set of basic requirements called PAVER: Permanent, Additional, Verifiable, Enforceable, Real. Because of their experimental nature, Second Nature’s guidelines state that it is acceptable for innovative offset projects to not initially meet all of these principles. As long as the project is transparent and has plans to meet the criteria it will be accepted by Second Nature. By encouraging schools to try more innovative approaches by removing penalty to first-actors, the hope is that some of these projects will graduate to peer-reviewed projects and ultimately be widely accepted by third-party validated carbon offset registries.

How To Get Started

This guidance revision provides a great opportunity for schools to dabble in the offsetting world. The best place to learn about local offset projects is at the Offset Network, Second Nature, or here at Urban Offsets. We are proud to offer unique carbon offset solutions for universities through our urban tree plantings. Contact us for more information on how we can help.