What is carbon offsetting?

Offsetting is a way for individuals and companies to compensate for their greenhouse gas emissions by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects elsewhere. By offsetting your emissions for an activity (e.g. a flight), the activity becomes “carbon neutral”.

What is a carbon credit?

Carbon credits correspond to a determined tradable amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They are generally quoted in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and are used to offset emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels in any process that uses GHG-emitting energy, whether in industry, transportation or the household.

How does offsetting work?

Your contribution is used to invest in projects that lead to greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The amount of GHG removal your investment leads to is expressed in tonnes of CO2eq. One carbon credit represents one tonne of CO2eq.

How does offsetting my greenhouse gas emissions help reduce climate change?

Given the gravity of climate change, our priority should be to expend every effort to reduce our emissions by as much as we can. We should then offset what we can’t reduce. By offsetting, you reduce climate change in three ways :

• Initiating real greenhouse gas emissions reductions that would not have happened without your investment;
• Financing renewable technologies and efficiency measures;
• Raising awareness of the climate impact of our lifestyle.

I’m just a tiny piece in a huge puzzle. What difference will my offsetting make?

Many think that industry is the biggest polluter and that they should bear the primary responsibility to clean up. In fact, transportation is one of the main sources of GHG emissions in Canada. We believe that we all share this responsibility. The sum of our own impacts—millions of citizens driving cars, heating homes, buying goods etc.—is, in the end, what causes industry to exist and pollute.

Indeed, your emissions are minute compared to the total in your city, in Canada or let alone on the planet. However, these massive emissions are the result of a myriad of individual actions. So if each of us were to emit less, we would not have a problem. And if no one reduces and offsets, climate change will continue unabated. The challenge is therefore to convince everyone to act, even if the actions are not immediately visible. Offsetting is a relatively new concept, but Planetair is convinced that it is an integral part of solving the climate change challenge and will become as common as recycling in the years to come. By reducing, offsetting and discussing the issue, you help create a movement that will reach a critical mass. So spread the message, and you can be part of the solution, too.

Isn’t offsetting just buying a clean conscience?

It goes without saying that Planetair advocates greenhouse gas emissions reductions above all, and we don’t promote offsetting as an alternative to reduction. But what about the emissions you cannot reduce or have not yet reduced? We will continue to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases, regardless what we do. There is no other way to remedy your pollution than to pay someone else to reduce it for you. So is it better to offset or not? We believe it’s a question of responsibility.

Do offsets impart the right to pollute?

No. Offsets are based on the “polluter pays” principle. By offsetting, you take responsibility for the pollution you cause when you decide to do something about it. It does not mean that your pollution no longer matters and does not make polluting any more “right”. It simply means that you’re cleaning up after yourself.

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

By buying RECs, you will be supporting renewable energy projects. But REC projects don’t necessarily reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere because they are not required to replace other, polluting energy sources. Offsets, on the other hand, are required to do so.

Is my contribution toward carbon offsets tax deductible?

While Planetair is a not for profit organization, we are not a registered charity. Therefore your contribution toward carbon offsets is not considered a donation and is not tax deductible as such.

Why does the price of carbon credits vary?

The price of a carbon credit is determined by a number of factors, such as:

The technology used by the project to generate the credit (e.g. solar, wind, forestry)
The location of the project (e.g. Canada, Uganda, China)
Exchange rates

Where does my money go?

Planetair is a programme of the UNISFÉRA International Centre, a not for profit organization created pursuant to the laws of Canada. Funds collected by Planetair through the sale of carbon offsets are invested in offsets and other activities and programmes that further the mission of the organization.

We undertake to retire and assign sufficient greenhouse gas emission reductions (carbon-credits) to satisfy the commitments we make to our contributors. Our commitment is audited by independent auditors at the end of our financial year.

Does Planetair make profits?

Planetair is a program of the Unisfera International Center, a not for profit organization. All revenues are used to further the mission of the organization.

Is my credit card transaction secure?

Credits card transactions on the Planetair website are handled by Paypal, a leader in the domain recognized for the security of its platform.

Paypal does not share your credit card information with us at any time.

How does Planetair select the projects it funds?

Our projects are selected by our international partners, which always recommend carbon credit projects of the highest quality. The choice is based on rigorous criteria. In addition to verifiably reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, the renewable energy and energy efficiency projects must contribute to sustainable development at the local level.

Why do project prices vary?

The cost to reduce one tonne of CO₂ as part of a wind energy project and the cost to reduce one tonne of CO₂ as part of a biogas installation project are not the same. Determining factors include the difference in the cost of the technology (e.g. wind or solar project) and the country in which the project is implemented.

Can I pick a project to give money to?

Yes. You will be able to choose to invest in a portfolio of projects or in a specific initiative.

To offset an industrial-scale amount of emissions (over 1 000 tons), please contact us to see whether Planetair is a position to provide you with a specific project.

Are any of the projects carried out in Canada?

Yes. There is currently only one Gold Standard-certified project in Canada and Planetair does offer credits from that project. Moreover, Planetair has created a series of portfolios through which you can offset your GHG emissions with international Gold Standard offsets, while at the same time contributing to the conservation of ecosystems in Canada and Quebec.

Planetair will also continue to offer a major part of its offsets from developing countries in the future for two main reasons:

Since the effects and mitigation of global warming are worldwide, it does not matter whether a project offsetting Canadian emissions takes place in Canada or anywhere else on the planet.
Planetair feels there is a social component to funding projects in developing countries: developed countries cause the vast majority of GHG pollution, yet the effects of global warming are predicted to impact the developing world the hardest. The least we can do is to combine offsetting with investments that help developing countries, in which capital for such projects is rare. This philosophy is also in line with the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol.

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 is supported by the WWF International, Greenpeace, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Pembina Institute and 80 other NGOs.

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.