Carbon Offsets

Yale’s carbon reduction strategy is largely achieved through significant investments in on-campus emissions reductions and generation of renewable energy. In order to act swiftly on climate, we also invest in off-campus reductions by purchasing third-party verified carbon offsets. In doing so, we can help to implement, assess, and refine scientifically-supported climate solutions while accelerating Yale’s progress toward achieving carbon neutrality.

What’s an Offset?

A verified carbon offset, or verified emission reduction (VER) is a reduction, removal, or avoidance of one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere. Purchasing verified carbon offsets can counterbalance emissions that take place on Yale’s campus.

Why does Yale purchase offsets?

While on-campus measures can take many years to achieve, off-campus solutions are deployed more quickly and with a wider range of technologies, partners, benefits, and locations. Yale’s purchase of verified carbon offsets holds the potential to:
  • Pilot new climate finance practices that support environmental stewardship
  • Develop a sustainable model for institutions to reduce their carbon emissions 
  • Pursue innovative research partnerships and efforts that could contribute to solutions and service the academic community. 
Some purchased verified carbon offsets will be subtracted against Yale’s own emissions, accelerating the University’s pace to meet its own reduction targets. Other offsets may be held and subtracted later or sold to other organizations seeking to reduce their own carbon footprints.
As on-campus energy efficiency improvements continue to drive down on-campus emissions, Yale’s use of verified carbon offsets to help meet its targets is expected to decline.

Environmental Integrity

Verified carbon offsets can be a powerful tool when they exhibit environmental integrity and deliver the greenhouse gas reduction they promise. Non-profit, third-party organizations have established rigorous standards used to certify the integrity of carbon offsets that are produce, including:
Yale values environmental integrity and will only purchase and develop offsets that meet these standards and are verified by a third-party auditor. In addition, Yale’s emissions accounting will align with the reporting standards set by The Climate Registry, whose own standards are based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

How are Yale’s verified offsets selected? 

Yale’s Carbon Offset Working Group has developed a robust process for determining what offsets to select. This process includes the following steps: 

1. Define project types and criteria 

We use The Climate Registry standards as a baseline for any carbon offset project we might consider. Projects must be real, additional, permanent, transparent, verified, and owned unambiguously.

2. Receive project proposals

The Carbon Offsets Working Group requests projects that meet Yale’s criteria from pre-selected providers.

3. Score projects

A weighted multi-factor scoring rubric is used as a tool to screen verified carbon offset projects.

4. Apply knock-out criteria

After scoring, projects are reviewed for a sub-set of due diligence factors that may “knock-out” an unqualified project from consideration.

5. Conduct due diligence

Members of the Working Group are assigned to research, review, and sometimes visit potential projects in a rigorous vetting process.

6. Construct portfolio and make recommendations

A portfolio approach enables us to support investments in different types of projects, different locations, and with different technologies, helping to broaden the marketplace for high-quality, carbon offset projects. 

7. Register and retire

Offsets are applied toward Yale’s annual emissions reductions goal after the purchased offsets are retired, ensuring those reductions cannot be claimed by another organization.

Who is Involved?  

The Carbon Offsets Program Oversight Committee reviews and approves recommendations put forward by the Carbon Offsets Working Group. Members of the Carbon Offsets Program Oversight Committee include: 
  • Stephen Murphy
  • Dave Bercovici
  • Amy Chivetta
  • Matthew Kotchen
  • Tim Pavlis
The Carbon Offsets Working Group is charged with selecting and purchasing verified carbon offsets that meet an established set of standards. Current members of the Carbon Offsets Working Group include: 
  • Dean Takahashi
  • Bradford Gentry
  • Lauren Caplan
  • Virginia Chapman
  • Casey Pickett
  • Catherine Smith
  • Austin Strayhorn
  • Amber Garrard
  • Anastasia O’Rourke
  • Emma Levin (student research assistant)
  • Sooyong Kwon (student research assistant)