Established by Defra, the new voluntary Code of Best Practice will spin out from a host of recommendations made in a consultation launched in January of this year.

The fledgling industry has suffered because there is no way to reliably measure the claims of those offering to offset carbon emissions against the reality.

The Code will be voluntary, meaning that offsetting providers or companies that sell offsets alongside their goods and services will be able to choose whether they want to seek accreditation for some or all of their products.

“People need to be sure that when they buy an offsetting product the emissions reductions are actually taking place, which is why we are developing this Code, which will be accompanied by a quality mark for accredited products,” said Joan Ruddock, Minister for Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste who announced the decision on the publication of the summary and analysis of responses to the draft Code.

Defra consulted with a host of companies and non-profit organizations including British Airways, HSBC and WWF.

All participants provided information and views on how to best establish reliable information to consumers on carbon offsetting.

92% responded by saying a code for offsetting was important.

Ruddock added: “An overwhelming majority of respondents to the consultation are in favour of a voluntary code for offsetting products to deal with the risk that without recognised standards consumer confidence could be damaged and the potential impact of offsetting reduced.

Offsetting is a way of compensating for emissions produced with an equivalent carbon saving, lessening the impact of a consumer’s actions. Consumers can offset a particular activity, such as a flight; their emissions over a period of time, such as their annual car mileage; or across their entire lifestyle or business, including all of the gas and electricity they consume and their emissions from transport.

The new Code will contain elements, ensuring that ‘offsetters’ provide “robust and verifiable emission reduction credits from the compliance market” as well timescales for canceling credits.

Further decisions on the code’s requirements will be announced later in the summer. The final code will be developed this coming autumn.

Dana Gornitzki

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