Why Going Beyond Conventional Offsetting is Critical Today

Kirsten Love

When exploring various pathways to fighting climate change – especially given recent news about how dangerously close we are to hitting the 1.5 degree climate threshold – it can be challenging to know how to make the most impactful contributions to the collective effort. Luckily, people and companies alike now have access to trusted resources that can support their decision-making. 

Nonprofit research group Giving Green has been providing individuals and organizations with meaningful and tangible ways to address climate change since 2019. Their approach is rooted in rigorous, evidence-based research and transparency at the highest levels while they continually evaluate the best ways to make the greatest impact on preventing catastrophic climate change.  

Their new white paper, “How to Think Beyond Net Zero: A guide to higher impact climate strategies for visionary businesses both large and small,” takes a grounded approach at addressing the concerns of businesses looking to make meaningful climate impacts in an ever-changing and complex world. It addresses, head-on, the realities of achieving net zero—which for many is simply not possible right now.  

This is a reality that has caused many to criticize companies trying to do their best, as well as the systems they utilize—like the carbon markets that are providing real impact every day.  

It should be acknowledged that there is still room for improvement in the carbon market, but that does not mean the work should stop or be halted by an unproductive focus on criticisms that offer no solutions.  

To combat this, Giving Green has outlined “four evidence-backed, actionable climate strategies that go beyond immediate neutrality to maximize climate impact.” These strategies include: Engage in policy, Support technological innovation, Contribute to or create a climate action fund, and Improve conventional offsetting.  

As a carbon offset project developer, their perspective on how to improve conventional offsetting is of particular interest to us here at Tradewater. They challenge the market to think about avoided emissions projects not only as a means to offset and mitigate your own emissions, but as projects that we should be donating to beyond just our need to mitigate.  

These projects are necessary in preventing warming and should be considered a sound pro-climate investment. We believe that our avoidance projects, strategically focused on non-CO2 gases that are ozone depleting substances and short-lived climate pollutants, are necessary investments, because they buy us time to develop the technologies and strategies necessary for decarbonization. For this reason, we should prioritize including projects like ours in broader sustainability strategies.  

In the white paper, Giving Green asserts that if offsets are being utilized to mitigate emissions, it is critical that they are of high quality and credibility. 

We have been honored to be listed as a recommended offset credit provider by Giving Green in this white paper, as well as on their official list of recommendations for three years running, because our credits meet the permanency, additionality and accuracy criteria that constitute high-quality offset credits.  As a third party rooted in evidence-based research, Giving Green’s recommendation has provided validation of Tradewater’s work and has given our buyers confidence in the projects that they support through us.  

Giving Green’s holistic approach to how we address climate change is needed now more than ever. We are running out of time and need to bring all possible solutions to the table. We need a tangible, trustworthy roadmap and actionable recommendations for meaningful climate action—and this white paper provides that.  

We hope that you will take a moment to download it, read it, and share it.  


Emission reductions are considered permanent if they are not reversible. In some projects, such as forestry or soil preservation, carbon offset credits are issued based upon the volume of CO2 that will be sequestered over future decades—but human actions and natural processes such as forest fires, disease, and soil tillage can disrupt those projects. When that happens, the emission reductions claimed by the project are reversed.

The destruction of halocarbon does not carry this risk. All destruction activities in Tradewater’s projects are conducted pursuant to the Montreal Protocol , which requires “a destruction process” that “results in the permanent transformation, or decomposition of all or a significant portion of such substances.” Specifically, the destruction facilities Tradewater uses must meet or exceed the recommendations of the UN Technology & Economic Assessment Panel , which approves certain technologies to destroy halocarbons, including the requirement that the technology achieve a 99.99% or higher “destruction and removal efficiency.” Simply put, this means that Tradewater’s technologies ensure that over 99.99% of the chemicals are permanently destroyed. During the destruction process, a continuous emission monitoring system is used to ensure full destruction of the ODS collected.


Some carbon offset projects necessarily rely on estimations or assumptions when calculating the emission reductions from project activities. Forestry projects, where developers make assumptions about the carbon that will be sequestered over future decades if trees are conserved, are a perfect example. Such projects sometimes result in an overestimation of the environmental benefit of the project.

Tradewater’s halocarbon projects avoid the issue of overestimation by consistently conducting extremely precise testing and measurement of the amount of refrigerant destroyed in each project.

  • Every container of ODS that Tradewater destroys is weighed by a third-party using regularly calibrated scales. The ODS is then sampled by a third-party and analyzed by an accredited refrigerant laboratory to determine its species and purity. These two steps combine to ensure that credits are issued only for the precise volume and type of refrigerant destroyed.
  • The destruction facilities that Tradewater uses continuously monitor the incineration process during destruction events to ensure that over 99.99% of the ODS is destroyed. This monitoring is mandated by regulatory protocols and is part of the verification process to which projects are subjected.
  • Tradewater accounts for the project emissions created during the collection, transport, and destruction of ODS, and the number of offsets issued is reduced by a corresponding amount. The protocols that we use also build in other reductions to account for substitute chemicals that will be used to replace the destroyed refrigerants. Tradewater publishes this information in the documentation for all its ODS destruction projects. These documents outline how the material was obtained, the project emissions calculations, the test results, and the amount and type of ODS chemicals destroyed, among other information.
  • Additionality

    It is a basic requirement of all carbon offset projects that the underlying project activities are additional. “Additional” means that the projects would not happen in the absence of a carbon market. Tradewater’s halocarbon projects simply would not happen – and the gases would be left to escape into the atmosphere – without the sale of the resulting carbon offset credits. This is because there is no mandate to collect and destroy these gases. It is still permissible to buy, sell, and use halocarbons that were produced before the ban. There are other reasons halocarbon destruction projects are additional:

    • There are no incentives or financial mechanisms to encourage halocarbon destruction. According to the International Energy Agency and United Nations Environment Program, “there is rarely funding nor incentive” to recover and destroy ozone depleting substances in storage tanks and discarded equipment. And collecting, transporting, and destroying halocarbons is time-intensive and expensive. The burden to collect and destroy these gases therefore remains prohibitive outside of carbon offset markets—meaning that if organizations like Tradewater do not do this work, nobody else will.
    • Countries are not focused on the need to collect and destroy halocarbons. The Montreal Protocol has been celebrated as a success because of its production ban. This success, however, ignores the legacy gases produced before the ban and is a blind spot for government regulators. In the U.S., for example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a Vintaging Model in the 1990s to estimate the quantify of ozone depleting substances left in circulation. Based on the inputs and assumptions put into the model, the EPA predicted that no CFCs would be available for recovery beyond 2020 in the United States. But this prediction did not prove accurate. Tradewater has collected and destroyed more than 1.5 million pounds of CFCs globally in recent years and continues to identify thousands of pounds per week.
    • International carbon accounting standards do not require corporations to measure or track emissions tied to halocarbons, and refrigerants are specifically excluded from Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) commitments. These commitments derive from emissions reporting under the GHG Protocol, which requires companies to report on emissions only from new generation refrigerants, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), but does not establish any obligation to report inventories or emissions of refrigerants still in use, such as CFCs and HCFCs. All these factors combine to make Tradewater’s carbon offset projects highly additional. As Giving Green, an initiative of IDinsight, concluded: “Tradewater would not exist without the offset market, so this element of additionality is clearly achieved.” The case for additionality is not so clear for some other project types, such as forestry and landfill gas carbon projects. For example, some forests are already being conserved for their beauty, or for use as parks, and generate carbon offset credits only because those conservation efforts do not yet have full formal protection in place to avoid deforestation in the future. Similarly, methane from landfills can be used to make electricity or captured as compressed natural gas, thereby creating additional revenue streams to support the activities, beyond the sale of carbon credits.