Last Tuesday the White House unveiled a commitment to the role of carbon offsets in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Not to bury the lede, but the Biden Administration loudly endorsed the opportunities of voluntary carbon offsets in addressing climate change. Carbon offsets are widely criticized not only by apocalyptic environmentalists but also the subject of deep divisions between environmental groups in the U.S.

In releasing New Principles for High Integrity Voluntary Carbon Markets the Administration is elevating ideas that already exist to buttress a carbon offset marketplace that today has no uniform standards and faltered last year, seeing the value of the marketplace as well as the price of each offset credit fall by more than 50%.

The Backstory

Each carbon credit represents the reduction or removal of one tonne of CO2 emission removal or reduction.

We have blogged about the history of offsets and more at Offsets and RECs: A Powerful Duo for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Repairing the Planet

Many organizations face significant challenges in their quest to achieve net zero carbon emissions. The most prominent among these is the difficulty in generating sufficient onsite renewable energy. This is particularly true for the over 90% of U.S. businesses operating in leased spaces within buildings they do not own. For these organizations, achieving net zero on site is not just impractical; it is often impossible. Critics who insist that onsite net zero be achieved for every organization are either pie-in-the-sky idealists or lack any understanding of the practical limitations most businesses face. An oft cited example is that a hospital cannot be net zero carbon emissions without the use of offsets or the like.

The Role of Voluntary Carbon Offsets

Voluntary carbon offsets offer a viable and effective solution for many organizations. By investing in carbon offset projects, businesses can counterbalance their emissions by supporting renewable energy projects and verified emission reduction initiatives. These offsets enable organizations to contribute to global emission reduction efforts even when direct action is not feasible within their own operational four walls.

Accessible and Scalable Solutions

Voluntary carbon offsets are accessible and scalable. They provide a flexible means for organizations to participate in climate action regardless of their specific circumstances. Whether a business is located in an urban high rise or a rural community, carbon offsets offer a pathway to contribute positively to the planetary environment. These offsets support a variety of projects, from reforestation and renewable energy to methane capture and energy efficiency improvements, making it possible for businesses of all sizes and sectors to find suitable opportunities for investment.

Credibility and Impact

Environmental zealots have used as a stalking horse the credibility of carbon offsets, but with few fraudsters or failed projects actually reported these mechanisms can ensure genuine emission reductions. Moreover, while not necessary in all instances the efficacy of individual projects can be the subject of an opinion of legal counsel that the projects funded by carbon offsets deliver real, measurable, and permanent emission reductions or similarly a verification by an accounting firm. There are also the Verified Carbon Standard, Gold Standard, and Climate Action Reserve as examples of certification bodies that provide oversight and validation.

Market Driven Climate Action

Voluntary carbon markets represent a powerful, market driven approach to combating climate change. By leveraging market mechanisms, these offsets attract private sector investment into climate action, driving innovation and scaling up efforts to reduce emissions. This market approach not only enhances the financial viability of climate projects but broadens the participation base, engaging a wide array of stakeholders.

Support from the Biden Administration

The Biden Administration is striving to make its climate goals achievable, including cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Recognizing the importance of voluntary carbon markets in this endeavor, the Administration just released a Joint Statement of Policy and new Principles for Responsible Participation in Voluntary Carbon Markets (VCMs).

Ensuring Responsible Carbon Offset Markets

The newly released principles aim to ensure that voluntary carbon markets drive credible climate action while generating economic opportunities. The guidelines emphasize transparency, integrity, and accountability, ensuring that investments in carbon offsets lead to genuine environmental benefits. This policy framework sets clear incentives and guardrails, fostering a robust market that supports ambitious climate action.

Importantly, this new federal government policy is expected to result in course corrections for existing bad state public policies, like Maryland regulations mandating buildings be net zero by 2040 without the use of offsets or RECS or, .. which Maryland regulations (currently put on hold by the legislature) are not credible state action and not factually possible. The federal commitment to advancing the use of carbon offsets is anticipated to drive ambitious market based solutions to greenhouse gas emissions that create economic opportunity across the country, in lieu of carbon policies like Maryland’s that would result in market stasis.


Voluntary carbon offsets are indispensable tools for organizations striving to achieve net zero emissions, particularly those unable to generate enough onsite renewable energy.

By providing accessible, scalable, and credible means to support global emission reduction efforts, carbon offsets enable businesses to make a significant positive impact toward repairing the planet. As the Biden Administration advances policies to bolster these markets, the path to net zero becomes attainable for the broad breadth of businesses across America.

Through participation in voluntary carbon markets, organizations can drive meaningful climate action and create economic opportunities, all while moving closer to a sustainable future.