The government has published its final draft of a Code of Best Practice (the Code) for consumer offsetting products for industry comment, which is to be backed by a quality mark. Offsetting enables emissions produced by an activity generating GHGs, eg taking a flight or driving a car, to be lessened by ensuring an equivalent carbon saving is achieved by an emission reduction project elsewhere. Interest has grown in the offsetting market as knowledge about the impact of climate change has increased.

The Code is designed to ensure that emissions offset through accredited products are calculated consistently and correctly, and that consumers are provided with clear information and transparent prices. Initially it will only cover offsetting products using Kyoto Protocol compliant project credits – the government has left open the possibility of including high-quality voluntary offsetting products but only once the voluntary offset industry provides an equivalent level of assurance on the standard of the credits as exists for Kyoto Protocol compliant project credits. Different standards for voluntary emission reductions (VERs) have already been developed, including the Voluntary Carbon Standard developed by the Climate Group, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the International Emissions Trading Association. Any resulting voluntary standard will be subject to an independent audit before inclusion in the Code.

The value of the global carbon market was around €40.4bn in 2007, with voluntary markets accounting for around 22.9m, double that of the previous year, of the 2.7bn tonnes of carbon credits changing hands.

The Code of Best Practice is available at:

www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climatechange/uk/carbonoffset/codeofpractice.htm.