Which is the best carbon offset scheme?

With so many carbon offset schemes out there it can be hard to know which to go for. In this article we summarise the best domestic and international schemes.

Table of Contents

With the replacement of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) no longer applicable due to Brexit, the Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) is being replaced in 2024 by the Environmental Land Management System (ELMs).

Within this we may see provisions for domestic offsetting, where farmers can be rewarded for increasing sequestration on their land through active management such as tree planting. We would hope that a domestic system for this is set up, so that private businesses can access farmland for localised tree planting.

Key Summary

Below you’ll find a full list of different schemes that we recommend.

However, if you want to take action now then below are the two major players that we recommend looking at. Neither is better or worse, but depends on what you want to achieve.

Some prefer the story of UK planted rewilding, while others love the impact and scale that Ecologi can faciliate. 

Ideally, use both!

< £1 Per Tree

Worldwide

Brilliant for affordable tech integrations at scale easily for big international impact.

Pros

Cons

£6 Per Tree

Scotland

Brilliant for story building and accountability within the UK that you can visit.

Pros
Cons

 

Best UK Carbon Offset Schemes

  • Scottish Rewilding projects
  • £6 per Tree
  • Longstanding action and land management
  • Full land management – not just “tree planting”

  • Focused on Neighbourhood schemes
  • Works with schools and community groups
  • £6 per tree
  • Goes beyond offsetting – also builds community resilience

  • UK and International schemes
  • Highly transparent and verified
  • Gives branded “forest” page
  • ~£6 per Tonne

 

  • Type: Woodland restoration and biodiversity protection 
  • Third- party certification: Woodland Carbon Code
  • Location: Lynbreck
  • Est. Reductions: 3,688 metric tonnes CO2e
  • Cost: £10.80 per tonne of CO2

  • Type: Tree planting 
  • Third- party certification: Woodland Carbon Code
  • Location: Grizebeck
  • Est. Reductions: 7,000 metric tonnes CO2e
  • Cost: £6.50 per tonne of CO2e; businesses membership is £5 per employee per month

Best International Schemes

  • UK and International schemes
  • Highly transparent and verified
  • Gives branded “forest” page
  • ~£6 per Tonne


Best overall because of user-friendly calculators, third-party certification, and flexibility in purchasing offsets.

Best air travel because of STI’s extensive expertise in the sustainable travel industry and commitment to certified offset projects.

  • Type: Funding renewable energy infrastructures
  • Third- party certificationVerified Carbon Standard
  • Location: US
  • Est. Reduction339,000 metric tonnes CO2e 
  • Cost: n/a

Best B Corp because of the value in offering sustainable business services. It’s possible to request a quote tailored on a business’ goals and budget, thus making  the 3Degrees scheme a better option for businesses that are interested in large offsets and that want to take advantage of other available sustainability services.

  • Type: Agricultural Methane Capture/Combustion (digester)
  • Third- party certification: Climate Action Reserve (CAR)
  • Location: US
  • Est. Reduction: 19,402 metric tonnes CO2e
  • Cost: n/a

Hybrid Schemes

Cost£12.90 per tonne of CO2

NameLocationTypeCost per tonne CO2
Forest CarbonUKRestoration and Biodiversity£10.80
My Carbon PlanUKTree Planting£6.50
NativeEnergyTanzaniaReduction of Deforestation$15.50
3DegreesUSMethane CaptureCustom
STIUSRenewable Energy InfrastructureCustom

What should I look for?

When choosing a carbon offsetting program, there’s a few key questions to ask and check the scheme answers fully. Most schemes on this page will meet these requirements and pass them, however if shopping around keep them in mind!

 

Are the trees additional

Are the trees being planted additional to what already were planned?

Some schemes offer carbon offsetting through protecting existing trees, which can be less effective than generating new growth and protecting existing trees.

This “Additionality” is important to ensure that your impact is truly being offset, and you’re not simply funding schemes that were already in place.

What land management is there?

Trees take 15 to 20 years before they fully start absorbing carbon. Therefore the scheme needs to guarantee that any trees planted are actively managed and maintained, and that the metric is trees grown, not planted.

Alternatively, some schemes have a guarantee that if a tree planted doesn’t grow, more are planted following years to ensure that the total amount is credited.

It may also be worth exploring Carbon Synching for this, where you offset more heavily upfront due to the rate of tree growth.

Location

We’ve split our schemes into both UK and International.

Which you go for is a matter of personal choice, though we recommend doing both. International schemes can offer better impact for the investment thanks to lower costs, and tie into other Sustainable Development Goals.

However, UK schemes can tie into other social impacts, team building activities and brand stories, while also potentially providing more accountability in that emissions are being dealt with “at home”.

However, as long as the scheme is of high quality and verified, it doesn’t matter too much where it’s based!

Other common questions we have are:

  1. What is Carbon Offsetting?
  2. Should you Carbon offset?
  3. Will carbon offsetting mean I reach Net Zero?

Summary

Adam Bastock
Author: Adam Bastock

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