Consumers Get Help in Choosing Carbon Offsets

July 16, 2009

Canadians heading off for summer vacation will have some help in making their holidays more environmentally friendly, thanks to a new guide ranking carbon offsets and vendors that encourages consumers to choose the highest quality carbon offsets.

Purchasing Carbon Offsets is the first guide of its kind in Canada. It ranks 14 carbon offset vendors based in Canada, as well as six international vendors, targeting Canadians who want to offset air travel and other activities that generate climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions. The guide was written jointly by the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation.

"We can't solve the problem of climate change without strong government action and leadership, but organizations and individuals can also make an important contribution by first reducing their greenhouse gas emissions whenever possible, and then purchasing high quality offsets to compensate for the rest," says Paul Lingl, climate change campaigner with the David Suzuki Foundation.

"The best approach is to look for carbon offsets that meet a relatively strong, independent offset standard and to buy offsets from renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects, as these are the most likely to result in high quality offsets," says Matt McCulloch, Director of Corporate Consulting Services with the Pembina Institute.

While many Canadians are finding ways at home and at work to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, they are also turning to carbon offsets to deal with their remaining carbon footprint. Carbon offsets are credits for greenhouse gas emission reductions achieved by a project in another location, such as energy conservation and solar-power projects. These offsets can be purchased to compensate for emissions such as flying to a summer destination, driving a car, or heating and lighting a home or business.

The popularity and supply of carbon offsets have grown dramatically over recent years, but not all carbon offsets are worth buying. "Canadians and businesses regularly ask us which offsets they should buy. The decision can be a confusing one, and only high quality offsets can help address the problem of climate change," adds Lingl. "Our user-friendly online version of the guide takes some of the guesswork out of the selection process. It can help consumers take responsibility for their climate impact and show leadership on climate change."

Because the vendor ranking is a snapshot of practices at the time the survey was carried out, the Pembina Institute encourages buyers to do some research of their own before making a purchase. To assist with this, the publication provides tips to help Canadians choose the highest quality offsets.

The guide was made possible by the generous support of Vancity, Environics Research Group, Environics Communications, the Stephen R. Bronfman Foundation, and the Bullitt Foundation.

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For more information, contact:

Matt McCulloch
Director, Corporate Consulting Services
The Pembina Institute
Tel: 403-269-3344 ext. 114
Mobile: 403-333-1347

Purchasing Carbon Offsets: A guide for consumers, businesses and organizations is available in French and English at


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