What is carbon offsetting?

Carbon offsetting is an environmental initiative that allows individuals and businesses to reduce their climate impact by neutralizing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These GHGs, as major atmospheric pollutants, are the main drivers of global warming. To offset these emissions, projects are financed that aim to reduce or avoid additional GHG production, such as those related to renewable energy, energy efficiency, or reforestation.

By investing in such projects, it is possible to offset a quantity of GHG emissions equivalent to that produced by a specific activity (for example, an airplane trip). In this way, the activity in question achieves a state of “carbon neutrality”, meaning it does not produce a net impact on the climate.

To ensure the integrity and effectiveness of this approach, Planetair supports Gold Standard certified projects. This certification guarantees that the projects are of high quality and that the GHG emission reductions are tangible, sustainable, and rigorously verified.

What is a carbon credit?

In the context of regulated carbon markets, a “carbon credit” represents an emission permit issued by a government, authorizing its holder to emit one metric tonne of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Regulated carbon credits are used by corporations to comply with their emission limits set by regulation.

Outside of regulated markets, we refer to carbon offseting mechanisms. These voluntary initiatives aim to provide everyone with the opportunity to invest in projects that yield climate benefits, with the intent of offsetting their own GHG emissions.

Given that the terms “carbon offset” or “carbon offsetting” are not regulated, there is a vast array of project promoters who claim to offer carbon offset solutions.

Faced with the difficulty for a person wishing to effectively offset their GHG emissions in distinguishing credible and genuine offset projects that have a real, rather than symbolic, climate impact, various organizations have emerged over time to quantify climate impacts and certify projects.

In this context, Planetair has chosen to support Gold Standard certified projects, considered as the most reputable standard to ensure the quality and integrity of voluntary carbon offset projects. These projects are subject to stringent verification, transparency, and traceability standards to ensure that the funded projects truly reduce GHG emissions and yield long-term climate benefits. Gold Standard projects are recognized as the most rigorous and credible in this sector.

How does offsetting my greenhouse gas emissions help in mitigating climate change?

Carbon offsetting is one of the solutions to combat climate change and should be integrated into a three-step approach:

1. Quantify GHG emissions: It is crucial to understand our individual and collective GHG emissions to pinpoint areas where we can cut down on emissions.

2. Reduce emissions: We must focus on lowering our GHG emissions by employing energy-efficient technologies, using cleaner transportation, decreasing energy consumption, and adopting sustainable practices.

3. Offset residual emissions: It’s important to offset residual emissions that cannot be eliminated or reduced, such as those related to air travel. By offsetting our emissions, we fund projects that decrease GHG emissions, like renewable energy and reforestation projects.

By adhering to this approach, we can significantly lessen our impact on the climate and contribute to constructing a more sustainable future for all.

I represent just a drop in the ocean. How will my actions make a difference?

Many people think that industries are the biggest polluters and that the responsibility to fix the damage should mainly fall on them. In fact, transportation is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada. We all share this responsibility. The millions of citizens who drive cars, heat their homes, and buy goods – and the total impact of these activities – are also responsible for the existence of the industry and the pollution it generates.

Of course, your emissions are small compared to the overall emissions of your city, Canada, or the planet. However, these massive emissions are the result of countless individual actions. So, if each of us were to reduce our emissions, the impact would be significant. If no one reduces or compensates for their emissions, climate change will continue to intensify. The challenge is to convince everyone to act, even if these actions are not immediately visible. The idea of carbon offsetting is relatively new, but Planetair is convinced that it is an integral part of the solution to climate change and that offsetting emissions will become as common as recycling over time. By reducing your emissions, offsetting them, and talking about these actions with others, you will help create the necessary movement to reach critical mass.

Does carbon offsetting simply give us an excuse to pollute?

Although carbon offsetting is a solution to combat climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the source remains crucial. It is the responsibility of all of us to promote source reduction of GHG emissions by encouraging the use of eco-friendly technologies, cleaner modes of transportation, and implementing sustainable practices. Carbon offsetting should not be seen as a replacement solution, but rather an option for residual emissions that we cannot reduce. In other words, we must first reduce our GHG emissions and then use carbon offsetting to mitigate the impacts of the emissions that cannot be avoided.

In a 2023 Sylvera report (sylvera.com), an analysis of data from around 100 companies showed an average reduction in their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of approximately 5%. Interestingly, companies that purchased carbon credits concurrently reduced their Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 6.2% per year on average, while companies not using carbon credits only decreased emissions by 3.4% annually.

What is the difference between purchasing renewable energy credits (REC) and carbon offsetting?

Does purchasing RECs contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere like carbon offsetting does?

Purchasing RECs supports renewable energy projects, but it does not guarantee a direct reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. RECs are created by projects that generate electricity, heat, or fuel from renewable sources. However, these projects are not required to replace other polluting energy sources, and their emissions of greenhouse gases may simply be shifted to other locations.

On the other hand, carbon offset credits generated by credible organizations such as the Gold Standard come from projects that have a direct objective of reducing or eliminating greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, for example, by using clean energy technologies. These projects have strict and verifiable standards to ensure that the emissions reductions are real, permanent, and additional, meaning they would not have occurred without project funding. The rules governing carbon credits also require accounting for any displacement of greenhouse gas emissions.

In summary, while purchasing RECs contributes to renewable energy production, it does not guarantee a direct reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon offset credits, on the other hand, come from projects with a direct objective of reducing or eliminating greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, making them a more direct and effective solution for combating climate change.

Is my contribution toward carbon offsets tax deductible?

While Planetair is a non-profit organization, we are not a registered charity, so your contribution towards carbon offsets is not considered a charitable donation and is not eligible for tax deduction.

How are carbon credit prices determined in the voluntary market?

On the voluntary carbon market, carbon credit prices are determined by several factors. Firstly, project certification has a significant impact on prices. The most rigorous certifications, such as the Gold Standard, demand high guarantees in terms of positive project outcomes and impose strict certification processes, which affects credit prices.

Additionally, the cost of project development itself also influences credit prices. For example, construction and operation costs of wind farms may differ from those of tree planting. The country in which a project is located can also have an impact on the price.

In contrast to the regulated market, where credit prices can be set by regulation, in the voluntary market, it is the various market actors who determine prices based on supply and demand. Climate project promoters, intermediaries who interface between promoters and contributors, and contributors themselves play a key role in determining prices.

Finally, exchange rates also have an impact on carbon credit prices, which are often listed in US dollars or euros.

What does Planetair do with the contribution money?

When you offset your greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through Planetair, your contribution is primarily used to support projects whose climate impacts are quantified in tonnes of CO2e and certified through the issuance of carbon credits. Therefore, if you wish to offset 50 tonnes of GHG emissions, Planetair will invest in projects that can trace the positive climate impact of your contribution through the issuance of 50 carbon credits (each representing one tonne of CO2e).

If you choose a project portfolio that includes investments in local climate projects, a percentage of your contribution (as specified in the portfolio description) will be directed to our non-profit partners to support their ongoing climate activities.

The remaining funds are used by Planetair to further its mission and development activities. Planetair is a program of the non-profit organization, Unisfera International Centre.

Planetair’s commitments to you are annually verified by independent auditors (CPAs). The most recent auditor report is available at any time on the homepage of our website.

Is my credit card transaction secure?

Credit card transactions made on the Planetair website are processed by Paypal, a recognized industry leader known for the security of its platform. Paypal never shares your credit card information with us.

Are any of the projects carried out in Canada?

Planetair is committed to supporting local organizations while ensuring that the contributions we receive for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions offsetting are fully achieved through verified, credible, and Gold Standard certified projects. Due to the current absence of Gold Standard certified projects in Canada, Planetair has created project portfolios that combine Gold Standard certified projects with local projects.

Gold Standard projects guarantee quantified GHG offsets demonstrated through credible carbon credits, while local climate projects generate positive outcomes in terms of climate change mitigation and adaptation in Canada, Quebec, and the Greater Montreal area.

Feel free to consult the PDF description of our various portfolios to learn more about their different components.

In addition to local projects, Planetair reserves a significant portion of its portfolio for developing countries for two main reasons: first, the effects of global warming are felt worldwide, so it doesn’t matter whether offset projects are carried out in Canada or elsewhere on the planet; second, it is important to finance climate projects in developing countries, which are hardest hit by pollution produced by developed countries responsible for climate change.

Beware of imitations!

Many suppliers on the market offer offset products that do not meet recognized standards. Do not hesitate to ask questions to make sure what you buy is real: verified, real greenhouse gas emissions. Whether you buy from Planetair or another offset retailer, make sure you know what you are investing in. It is part of your responsibility to protect our climate.

How can I be sure that your projects lead to the greenhouse gas reductions you claim?

Our projects are all verified by independent auditors from accredited inspection, verification, testing and certification companies such as SGS, TUV and DNV.

What is the Gold Standard?

The Planetair project portfolio contains carbon offset certificates that carry the Gold Standard. Gold Standard carbon credits are the highest quality carbon credits currently available for voluntary offsets, and the projects they fund are the premium projects on the market. The method requires that renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies also lead to sustainable development for local communities (such as increased standards of living, knowledge transfer, job creation or pollution reduction). All Gold Standard projects are rigorously tested for environmental quality by registered third parties.

The Gold Standard Foundation only grants its label after third-party validation and project verification. Because of the increased awareness of the need for transparency and rigour on the carbon market, Gold Standard credits are in high demand. They are also very scarce.

Companies appreciate the Gold Standard’s stringent criteria since they know their carbon investment will have value even if policies change.

The Gold Standard was created by WWF and is supported by the David Suzuki Foundation and many international NGOs as a best practice standard to ensure that carbon offset projects maintain the highest levels of environmental integrity and contribute to sustainable development. All Gold Standard-certified projects and programs accelerate progress towards the carbon neutrality ambition of the Paris Agreement while catalyzing impacts towards broader sustainable development goals.

For more information, visit the Gold Standard Foundation website.

How do you calculate residential GHG emissions?

We use internationally accepted methodologies and emissions factors for all of our GHG emissions calculations. The emissions data for electricity generation is from Statistics Canada and Natural Resources Canada, the natural gas emissions data is from Environment Canada and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the conversion factors are from the European Energy Agency.

How do you calculate GHG emissions for road travel?

We use internationally accepted methodologies and emissions factors for all of our GHG emissions calculations.

How do you calculate residential GHG emissions?

We use internationally accepted methodologies and emissions factors for all of our GHG emissions calculations. The emissions data for electricity generation is from Statistics Canada and Natural Resources Canada, the natural gas emissions data is from Environment Canada and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the conversion factors are from the European Energy Agency.

Why is air travel particularly harmful and how does Planetair take this into account?

Airplanes release most of their CO2 and other GHGs into the atmosphere at high altitude, where they cause more damage. As a result, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends multiplying the CO2 emissions by a factor of 1.9 to account for their full effect. Planetair uses this factor when calculating the CO2 emissions equivalents for flights. Planetair also multiplies the distance (based on the great circle route) by 9% in order to consider all indirect routes, delays and circling approaches when landing (defined in the literature as the uplift factor).

Why is short-haul travel more damaging than long-haul flights?

Short-haul flights use more fuel per distance traveled because of the relatively longer duration of the take-off and landing phases relative to the flight’s cruising time. During take-off and landing, the engines must run at full throttle, therefore consuming more fuel. In addition, once the plane reaches a certain altitude, its drag (the force of resistance that must be overcome to propel the plane forward) is diminished due to the thinner air. The shorter the amount of time a plane travels in thin air relative to the total trip duration, the more fuel it will consumer per kilometre. Planetair takes this into account in its emissions calculations.

Why is flying business/first class more impactful than economy?

Simply put, the more passengers on an airplane, the fewer greenhouse gases it will emit for each individual. Since business and first class seats are larger, they take up more room. Travellers in business or first class are responsible for more emissions because they effectively exclude additional people from traveling on the same flight. Planetair considers whether you are flying in economy, business or first class. Business travelers are charged 1.5 times the emissions of an economy traveller and first class passengers 2.4 times the amount.