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The Oxford Offsetting Principles


The Oxford Principles for Net Zero Aligned Carbon Offsetting (Revised 2024) are an essential resource to guide the design and delivery of net zero commitments by governments, cities and companies. 

Carbon offsetting schemes are frequently used to help organisations achieve net zero carbon emissions. However, current approaches are unlikely to deliver the level of emissions reduction needed to achieve global climate goals.

Well thought-out carbon offsetting can contribute to net zero strategies, particularly in hard-to-decarbonise sectors. However, if not done well, offsetting can result in ‘greenwashing’ and create unintended negative impacts for both people and the environment.

About the revised Oxford Offsetting Principles 2024:

Since the initial publication of the Principles in 2020, there has been growing interest in aligning organisational and offsetting strategies with net zero. Despite this, evidence continues to cast doubt on the integrity of many carbon credits used for offsetting, and most offsetting that occurs today is still not net zero aligned. 

In the past few years, analyses of the most common types of carbon credit projects have found evidence of over-crediting that undermines climate change mitigation efforts. Furthermore, the supply of credible removals is still far from sufficiently scaled. In recognition of these challenges, some organisations and standard bodies have opted to move away from the term ‘offsetting’ to avoid misleading claims. 

The revised Principles underscore the core components of the original Principles, calling for a major course-correction in carbon markets and offsetting practices, while also clarifying aspects of the Principles for net zero alignment in areas where authors felt further detail would be beneficial to users.

We focus on four main elements for credible net zero aligned offsetting:

  • Cut emissions, ensure the environmental integrity of credits used to achieve net  zero, and regularly revise your offsetting strategy as best practice evolves
  • Transition to carbon removal offsetting for any residual emissions by the global  net zero target date
  • Shift to removals with durable storage (low risk of reversal) to compensate any  residual emissions by the net zero target date
  • Support the development of innovative and integrated approaches to achieving net zero 

Read the Principles:

Oxford Principles for Net Zero Aligned Carbon Offsetting (revised 2024) (Opens in a new tab)

With a focus on transparency, durability, and innovation, the Oxford Offsetting Principles chart a course for organisations to navigate the evolving landscape of carbon markets and offsetting practices. Key highlights include urgent calls to accelerate emission reductions, close the carbon removal gap, and harness the power of nature-based solutions. 
This document should be interpreted and used in line with its purpose and scope to maintain and promote the highest possible climate ambition. This document does not address legal and other obligations relating to climate action.

2.3 MB
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February 2024
K, Axelsson, A. Wagner, I. Johnstone, M. Allen, B. Caldecott, N. Eyre, S. Fankhauser, T. Hale, C. Hepburn, C. Hickey, R. Khosla, S. Lezak, E. Mitchell-Larson, Y. Malhi, N. Seddon, A. Smith, S. Smith


  • Professor Myles Allen | Environmental Change Institute, Oxford Net Zero and Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford
  • Dr Thomas Hale | Oxford Martin School and Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford
  • Dr Conor Hickey | Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford
  • Eli Mitchell-Larson | Environmental Change Institute and Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
  • Professor Yadvinder Malhi | Environmental Change Institute, Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery, University of Oxford
  • Professor Nathalie Seddon | Nature-based Solutions Initiative, Department of Biology; Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford
  • Audrey Wagner | Nature-based Solutions Initiative, Department of Biology: University of Oxford
  • Alison Smith | Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford  
  • Professor Nick Eyre | Environmental Change Institute; Zero-carbon Energy Research Oxford (ZERO)  Institute: University of Oxford