A picture of a wind farm at sunset

Thank you for visiting the David Suzuki Foundation website to learn more about carbon credits and offsets. We are reviewing our position on these approaches based on the latest research and will be updating this content with a revised position. For a full statement, visit the FAQ on our contact page.

What is a carbon offset?

A carbon offset is a credit for emissions reductions given to one party that can be sold to another party to compensate for its emissions. Carbon offsets are typically measured in tonnes of CO2-equivalents and are bought and sold through international brokers, online retailers and trading platforms.

Buying offsets helps individuals take into account the environmental costs of air travel. The price per tonne of offsets, however, is far below the estimated costs of damage that a tonne of carbon pollution will cause via global warming and ocean acidification. Although carbon offsets are good for when you do fly, it is better to stop flying altogether, or if you must fly, do so only when necessary and stay longer.

What kind of offsets should I buy?

If you must fly, it’s important to consider offset programs that don’t go to “business as usual” projects. It’s best to support projects that wouldn’t have happened without the extra funding from offset sales. If emissions reductions are required by government policy in a particular sector, a project to reduce them should not count as an offset.

A good way to ensure that your offset purchase is making a positive contribution to the climate is to purchase offsets that meet recognized standards.

The Gold Standard is widely considered to be the highest global standard for carbon offsets. It ensures that key environmental criteria have been met by offset projects that carry its label. Only offsets from energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects qualify for the Gold Standard. These projects encourage a shift away from fossil fuel use and carry inherently low environmental risks.