What is the Offset Network?
The Offset Network was developed by Duke University, Oberlin College, and the University of Florida, members of the Climate Leadership Network. The Climate Leadership Network is managed by the Boston-based nonprofit Second Nature, and is comprised of colleges and universities across the United States that have committed to take action on climate and prepare students to solve the challenges of the 21st century through research and education. The Climate Leadership Network signatories have made commitments to achieve campus carbon neutrality by reducing greenhouse gases produced on campus (Scope 1), generated from using electricity (Scope 2), and caused indirectly through the purchase of materials, fuels and more (Scope 3).
There is only so much colleges and universities can do to reduce Scope 3 emissions, as many of these emissions are beyond direct control of the institution (i.e. commuting) or arise from activities that are difficult to completely eliminate (i.e. air travel). That is where offsets come into play: by supporting climate-friendly projects, universities and colleges can claim those emissions reductions as their own. In 2015, Second Nature convened a working group to develop the Carbon Markets and Offsets Guidance, which provides guidelines for how institutions in the Climate Leadership Network can purchase offsets or develop offset projects to account for some of their emissions.
In addition to recognizing leading standards and project types, the Carbon Markets and Offsets Guidance introduced two new ideas of Peer Reviewed Offsets and Innovative Offsets: offsets that may be reviewed and verified by peer institutions rather than accredited third-party project auditors. By allowing schools to offset a small portion of their Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions with Peer Reviewed Offsets and Innovative Offsets, the guidance aims to address the potentially high cost of third-party verification, better provide educational opportunities with real-world application, expand the types of offset projects available, and encourage the development of innovative offset projects. As a result, the Offset Network was created to define the procedures and processes for institutions interested in developing Peer Reviewed or Innovative Offsets.
Regardless of your type of offset project, we encourage you to examine similar projects available through the examples on the Offset Projects page. The Offset Network aims to link project developers to knowledgeable peers, provide templates for different activities, and foster a peer review community. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us and other project organizers - we are excited to partner with you in your journey to climate neutrality.