Who Regulates Carbon Offsets?


Offsets need to be legitimate for the carbon offset market to fulfill its purpose. To ensure that, environmental accountants and independent third parties inspect offset projects to verify their impact. This process involves collaboration across the entire supply chain.

Registries and Verification

Registries act as environmental accountants. Its main priority is to ensure that every tonne of CO2 reduced or removed from the atmosphere issues one carbon offset. This process builds authenticity in the market and limits double-counting. Registries also ensure that each offset produced meets the constantly-updating quality standards.

When an offset project applies to a registry, it meets a validation/verification body (VVB) to validate and estimate the volume of emissions reduced. VVBs are essentially environmental engineering firms tasked with evaluating the standards and methodologies used by offset projects. VVBs work hand-in-hand with registries to audit projects and keep them in line with industry-approved standards.

Each year they revisit the project to monitor and verify that the reductions/removals are still taking place as expected. This ongoing verification ensures that the offsets are real, permanent, and additional. Registries also play a role in maintaining the quality of the carbon offset market by ensuring only good projects become verified and receive funding. To do this, they must have substantial eligibility criteria and screening processes.

Leading Firms

Verra (Voluntary)

Verra records information on certified projects, issued and retired units, and the trading of units. It is where Verra keeps all the information and documents about projects and credits. The Verra Registry also makes sure that each project and credit is unique.

✅ Verra’s mission is "to lead the transition to a more sustainable future”, a task they achieve through offset regulation and providing environmental services and programs with a focus on climate change, forestry, and water services.

Verra created the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS). As the world's most popular carbon offset standard, it has certified over 2,000 projects in over 90 countries. These projects have cumulatively reduced or removed over 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The VCS program is designed for use by any project type as long as it can certifiably generate climate-positive impacts for our planet.

Gold Standard (Voluntary)

Gold Standard has set a precedent for high-quality environmental action. They have cumulatively reduced or removed over 400 million metric tons (Mt) of greenhouse gas emissions in more than 60 countries since being established in 2003. The Gold Standard Impact Registry tracks environmental assets like carbon offsets and the associated sustainable development impacts of Gold Standard-certified interventions.

🥇 "Gold Standard is a standard that sets requirements to design projects for maximum positive impact in climate and development -- and to measure and report outcomes in the most credible and efficient way."

Registries are important in the carbon market because they provide a way to track and verify carbon offsets. Registries need to demonstrate that they have a way to monitor and enforce offset standards to be credible. Several organizations maintain environmental registries, but Verra and Gold Standard lead the pack. To date, there have been over 1,000 Gold Standard project certifications in a wide range of sectors, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, forestry, and others.

California Air Resources Board (Compliance):

CARB is a compliance system that ensures businesses stay in line with California's air pollution laws and regulations. Its ultimate goal is to protect public health, improve air quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To do this, CARB prioritizes the innovation and regulation of clean transportation and carbon removal technology.

Some of its major programs include:

  • The California cap-and-trade program reduces greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on carbon
  • The Low Carbon Fuel Standard reduces transportation emissions by encouraging the use of cleaner fuels
  • The Zero Emission Vehicle program promotes the use of electric vehicles

CARB is currently researching and developing new technologies to reduce emissions that come from transportation. As a result of their efforts, cars today are 99 percent cleaner than in the 1970s, meaning less air pollution overall, shorter hospital stays, and fewer days missed from school and work due to respiratory & cardiopulmonary diseases.


The voluntary carbon markets rely on registries to certify that projects meet quality standards and issue the correct number of offsets. These organizations play a crucial role in maintaining the credibility of the carbon market. Even though verification is tedious and time-consuming, the end goal is a more transparent and trustworthy market. With registries maintaining the issuance of offsets, the double-counting criticisms will gradually fade as the market continues to improve in its transparency & accountability.

To learn more about carbon offsets or to get involved, feel free to check out our website.