The Offset Network encourages the use of previously created and approved protocols to decrease the implementer's workload and increase the speed of project development. However, if the project under development does not fit with any existing protocols but meets the principles of a high-quality offset, it may be appropriate to consider developing an innovative offset protocol.



Approved GHG Market or Program Protocols

The GHG programs below are the first places to search for the appropriate protocol for your project. Searching across different GHG programs, you will likely come across multiple protocols that have different requirements for the same project type. Deciding which protocol to apply is an important decision, as the protocol chosen will guide the entirety of your project. It is recommended that you review all the existing protocols for your project type before selecting one. Select the protocol that you can follow given your organization's resources and capabilities, while maintaining the highest standards feasible for project accounting.


If none of the approved GHG program protocols cover your project type, or can be fulfilled given your organization's resource availability/internal capacity, then it may be appropriate to use a protocol developed by a peer institution, or create your own.



Offset Network Developed Protocols

You are not the first to go through this process! Take advantage of existing institutional offset protocols within the Offset Network - feel free to use these protocols for projects following the 'innovative' pathway.

Residential Energy Efficiency Protocol

Residential Energy Efficiency Protocol

Urban Forestry Protocol

Urban Forestry Protocol

Afforestation Protocol

Afforestation Protocol

Protocols in Development


The following carbon sequestration and emission reduction activities are currently being developed into protocols by members of the Offset Network:

  1. Rotational pasture management

  2. Agroforestry

  3. Home Weatherization

Rotational Pasture Management:

Rotational Pasture Management

Improved land management is a crucial component of climate change mitigation. There is potential for agriculture, representing 13.5% of global GHG emissions, to cut its emissions and store additional CO2 in soil. The Southeast region, unlike the feedlot scenarios dominant within the top 5 cattle producing states, is typified by smaller pasture based cattle operations and represents ~20% of the national herd. By targeting pastured cattle, solutions can prioritize equity by supporting small scale graziers in the Southeast. Small-scale systems are more adaptable, while support for graziers assists rural economic development and resilience-building for the impacts of climate change. Currently, a multidisciplinary team of students, faculty, and staff from Duke University and NC State University are collaborating with small-scale cattle farmers and the NC Extension Service in a year-long project to understand best management practices' (BMP) effect on soil carbon and soil quality. The ultimate goal of this project is to create a carbon offset protocol that lowers barriers of entry to farmers and increases the use of these BMPs.


Agroforestry is recognized as a more efficient way to use land resources; these practices allow for the management of trees alongside either agricultural food or animal production. Additionally, agroforestry may provide more socially, economically and environmentally beneficial outcomes than other land uses or just forestry or crop/ pasture management alone. The World Resources Institute (WRI) 20 x 20 Initiative is facilitating the planting of 20 million hectares of degraded land in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2020, in which agroforestry will play an important role. Currently, three partners of the World Resource Institute (WRI) Initiative 20x20 are implementing cacao agroforestry projects in the buffer zones of protected areas in Peru: Althelia/AIDER, Canopy/Ecotierra, and Alianza Cacao Peru. The returns from these projects come from either cacao sales or carbon offsets from avoided deforestation in the protected area, or both. However, carbon sequestered through cacao agroforestry systems is not yet being quantified at all or is being done in ways that cannot generate market-ready carbon offsets. 

While there are a number of third party verified protocols available through GHG registries, a team of Duke graduate students will assess the current state of agroforestry protocols and identify solutions for making these protocols more accessible for the higher education community. Particular focus will be directed towards analyzing the protocol’s burden on landowners to prove eligibility for the protocol, to gather data, and comply with other stated requirements that are expected to represent barriers to implementation. The results of this grounded analysis will be combined with a global-scale analysis of agroforestry-based offsetting projects.

Home weatherization:

Photo Credit: WRI 20x20 Initiative, Alianza Cacao

Photo Credit: WRI 20x20 Initiative, Alianza Cacao

Small electric cooperatives may be better poised to facilitate home energy efficiency retrofits by offering tariff on-bill financing and by using smart meter technology, which is already installed across many rural cooperative members' homes. However, very few energy efficiency carbon offset projects have been completed and verified through a GHG registry. Currently, a working group of professionals in higher education, the nonprofit sector and business is evaluating home weatherization protocols and identifying solutions for developing a better protocol. Duke University is currently working with EEtility and Kilowatt Savings Co. (the nonprofit arm of several SC electrical cooperatives) to implement pilot projects using tariff on-bill financing to reduce carbon emissions. The ultimate goal is to find ways to incentivize electric cooperatives to implement weatherization programs and to provide some funds to co-ops for operating expenses.


Develop Your Own Protocol

Establishing your own offset protocol is a good option when you cannot identify a protocol that fits your project type, or if your project differs drastically from an existing protocol in terms of scale. Use the Develop a Project page to learn more about the process the Offset Network has developed. When developing your own protocol, you will need to have that protocol pass through the "Public Assessment" process, to receive review from at least 3 subject matter experts, before you can develop a project according to that protocol's instructions. 

Please don't hesitate to connect with the Offset Network - we have experience and expertise to share that can help you achieve your goals.