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Carbon: Offset or Credit?

In the realm of environmental sustainability, terms like "carbon credits" and "carbon offsets" often weave through discussions, but understanding the nuances between the two is crucial. Let's embark on a journey into the world of carbon trading and explore the distinctions between these environmental instruments.

Carbon Credits: A Trade in Emission Rights

Governments worldwide are taking strides to curb carbon emissions, and one approach is the cap-and-trade system. Under this framework, companies are allocated a specific emission limit, forming the basis for carbon credits. Simply put, a carbon credit is akin to a permit granting the right to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide.

Each company operating under a cap-and-trade system receives a predetermined allowance of credits. If a company surpasses this limit, it faces penalties. However, if it emits less than the allocated amount, it can trade or sell its surplus credits. The essence of carbon credits lies in selling the right to emit carbon, creating a dynamic marketplace for companies to balance their environmental impact.

Carbon Offset: Looking for a solution somewhere else

On the other side of the carbon spectrum, we encounter carbon offsets. Unlike credits, offsets don't grant the right to emit; rather, they serve as a metric for compensating emissions by investing in green projects or initiatives, whether natural or technological, that remove emissions. These projects span a diverse range, from renewable energy offsets (such as renewable energy development like solar, wind, or biogas, or ones improving energy efficiency within facilities and technology), methane destruction (such as from landfill gas or livestock); capturing carbon in plants and soil (nature-based offsets); carbon capture and storage (where technology is used to pull carbon from the air and store it long term); and carbon capture and utilization (where the carbon is captured and then used as an input for other industrial processes to create building material, textiles, biofuels, and even ink).

The unit of both carbon credits and carbon offsets is one metric tonne of CO2 equivalent that can be traded or sold.

Carbon offsets and carbon credits must be used in conjunction with direct carbon reduction.

Carbon Credits

Carbon Offsets


Carbon credits are required by law and can be traded by companies and governments only.

Carbon offsets are voluntary efforts and are available for any entity, including individuals.

How does it work

Carbon credits put a cap on emissions, which gradually decrease over time to reduce carbon emissions by preventing CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

Carbon offsets involve the funding of projects that aim to either prevent the release of CO2 into the atmosphere or remove it once it has already been released.


Carbon credits are an indirect method to limit carbon emissions because companies can continue to emit as long as they pay the price.

Carbon offsets only make others reduce their carbon footprint to compensate for your carbon footprint.





I started Sustainability House with the goal of offering readers a glimpse into my thoughts and experiences. What started out as weekly posts have evolved into a dynamic site packed with information about various topics that are near and dear to me. Take some time to explore the blog and see for yourself what makes you curious and eager.


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