Voluntary demand for carbon offsetting grew 4 percent in 2012, when buyers committed more than $523 million to offset 101 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to this year’s State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets report, produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace.
The European private sector, including regulated energy utilities, was the market’s biggest voluntary buyer, growing demand by 34 percent to 43.4 million tons.
The U.S. offset more emissions than any other single country at 28.7 million tons. Just more than one-third of offsets purchased, or 9.7 million tons, were obtained for future use in California’s emerging cap-and-trade program.
According to the research, voluntary buyers in 2012 paid a volume-weighted average price of $5.9/ton — significantly higher than the United Nations’ regulatory carbon offset price of less than $1/ton.
“Whether in North America or Europe, these findings show that many companies remain willing to act ahead of governments when it comes to putting a meaningful price on carbon,” says Michael Jenkins, president of Ecosystem Marketplace’s parent organization, Forest Trends.
One-third of all offsets purchased for voluntary end use were done so to “demonstrate climate leadership” and 42 percent were based on “traditional corporate social responsibility,” according to the research.
Wind farms remain the single largest source of offsets, at 15.3 million tons.
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