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Offset Unavoidable Emissions

About one third of AU’s greenhouse gas emissions are a result of air travel and commuting. These are also known as “scope three” emissions in greenhouse gas inventories, and are often considered “unavoidable emissions” since no one institution acting on its own can feasibly eliminate these emissions in the foreseeable future. However, carbon offsets provide a market-based mechanism to voluntarily take responsibility for all of the emissions in the university’s inventory, even these so-called unavoidable sources.

A carbon offset is one metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions reduced in one place in order to compensate for, or “offset,” one ton of emissions produced somewhere else.

In 2013, AU purchased 9,000 carbon offsets from an avoided deforestation project in Costa Rica as a pilot project to study carbon offsets as a strategy for mitigating greenhouse gases associated with air travel, commuting, and other unavoidable sources. The project was studied in detail by students, faculty and staff. The results of that study will soon be available in the Related Links to the right.