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Photo: Mathis Jrdl on Unsplash

The Oxford Offsetting Principles


The Oxford Offsetting Principles report is an essential resource to guide the design and delivery of voluntary net-zero commitments by government, cities and companies. Our multi-disciplinary team highlights four main elements to successful offsetting practice.

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 such as aviation and agriculture. However, if not done well, offsetting can result in ‘greenwashing’ and create unintended negative impacts for both people and the environment.

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

  • Prioritise reduction of your own emissions first, ensure the environmental integrity of offsets you use and disclose how those offsets operate
  • Shift offsetting towards options that directly remove carbon from the atmosphere
  • Shift offsetting towards long-lived storage, which removes carbon from the atmosphere permanently or almost permanently
  • Support development of a market for net-zero-aligned offsets.

The report also focuses on the importance of a well-founded approach to nature-based carbon offsets, such as forest restoration.

External contributors

  • Professor Myles Allen | Environmental Change Institute 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, University of Oxford
  • Dr Friederike Otto | Grantham Institute, Imperial College London 
  • Professor Nathalie Seddon | Nature-based Solutions Initiative, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford