Peer Verification and Public Assessment
Organizations seeking to meet their Scope 3 emissions (e.g., indirect emissions such as employee commuting) goals typically employ a mixture of strategies: they engage in low-carbon activities and purchase carbon offsets to cover remaining emissions. While many universities follow this path, they want more; they want offset projects that directly benefit their campus or nearby communities, and they want to use offset projects as an educational opportunity.
Both Peer Verification and Public Assessment are more affordable means of external authentication of carbon offsets and/ or the protocol used. However, unlike Peer Verification, Public Assessment does not lead to verified carbon offset credits. Our vision is that these less traditional pathways will engage people who otherwise would be left out of the offset project space; in this way, we can help to expand awareness and understanding about the role of offsets in reaching climate reduction targets, and hopefully stimulate more creativity in how offsets are generated.
The process of Verification is the evaluation of a carbon offset project for accuracy of calculated net GHG impact and fulfillment of protocol requirements. Peer Verification uses educational institutions to act as verifiers, instead of using ISO accredited verifiers. By using educational institutions, not only does the project implementer avoid extensive costs, the verifier institution can bolster its academic mission and offer the verification process as a learning opportunity for students.
Peer Verification will include a verification statement, a formal written declaration providing assurance that a GHG assertion is in conformity with the Project Plan, applicable requirements of the appropriate sector standard, and the chosen methodology. The verification statement will include the quantity of emission reduction tons verified for the reporting period and the Peer Verification Body’s determination that the assertion of emissions offsets is materially correct. See below for more information on how to register as a Peer Verifier.
The process of Public Assessment is an alternative pathway for Innovative Offset Projects which are in the pilot phase. Public Assessment involves three subject matter experts who will review the Innovative Offset project, provide feedback for improvement and refinement, and offer their opinion on whether the proposed protocol meets sufficient standards to be deemed acceptable for use alongside other established protocols. The Public Assessment process is intended to help those interested in developing and/or using an Innovative Offset Protocol to determine whether the concept is worth developing further into a Peer Verified Project.
Are Public Assessment Reviews Made Public?
Public Assessment responses to projects will live on-line at the Offset Network.org website, and will be attached to the proposed protocol. At this point, there is not a rigidly-defined guideline for Public Assessment responses. Assessments may include comments incorporated directly into the proposed Innovative Protocol narrative using Track Changes or other document mark-up tools; they may be in the form of stand-alone narrative review; or some combination of the two.
Who Participates in Public Assessment?
Proposers of Innovative Offset Protocols will be required to identify the three subject matter experts. Subject matter experts may be from within their home university community or external, and may include experts outside of academia. Individuals registered with Offset Network as Peer Verifiers may serve in this capacity of providing Public Assessment for proposed Innovative Offset Protocols. The long-term goal of the Offset Network is to have an established body of Peer Verifiers to help with the Public Assessment review process for proposed Innovative Offset Protocols.
Why Go Through the Public Assessment Process?
The Offset Network’s Peer Review Committee recommends that proposers of Innovative Offset Projects submit their Innovative Offset Protocol for Public Assessment while the project execution details are still being developed so that when a project reaches the point of implementation, the Protocol is approved and may then be ready for the Peer Review process. This is not required, however, and proposers may find Public Assessment more useful if they choose to implement an Innovative Offset Project to demonstrate a pilot example of what the protocol may look like when implemented into a project. Pilot implementation may help to further refine Innovative Offset Protocol details. The Public Assessment process may also be used for review of best practices documentation supporting Innovative Offset Projects.
Current Peer Verifiers
The current peer verifiers are organizations at educational institutions all over the US.