US to launch carbon offset guidelines to boost integrity


By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States will unveil in the coming days guidelines for the use of carbon offsets inside and outside of government to build confidence in the market and ensure credits reflect real emissions cuts, the top U.S. climate diplomat said on Friday.

It follows a 2022 move by the State Department, along with two philanthropies, to launch a carbon offset program known as the Energy Transition Accelerator to generate private finance to help developing countries transition to clean energy.

“Carbon markets are a critical tool on the path of… keeping warming below 1.5C,” John Podesta told an event about building high-integrity carbon markets at the State Department. “But carbon markets have been the subject of intense criticism and missteps which undermine the confidence in the ability to deliver significant emissions reductions.”

Podesta previewed some of what the guidelines will require, including assurance that carbon credits “represent real, additional, permanent emissions reductions,” and that emissions accounting happens at the sectoral level.

On the demand side, he said companies use of carbon credits “should not substitute or delay” efforts to invest directly in reducing their emissions.

The announcement comes amid a row about the use of offsetting within the Science Based Targets initiative – which validates corporate climate targets – after a plan by the board to allow supply chain emissions to be offset was criticised by its own staff.

Podesta and John Kerry, the former Secretary of State who spearheaded the launch of the ETA alongside the Bezos Earth Fund and the Rockefeller Foundation, applauded the decision by SBTi to open their standards up to the use of carbon offsets.

At the same event, the U.S. also announced that it has selected the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), a Washington-based nonprofit, to serve as the secretariat for the ETA, with Kerry to serve as the chair of the ETA advisory group.

“If we do not mobilize the private sector we do not win this (climate) battle,” Kerry said. “We need high quality carbon markets to drive action.”