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How we offset our greenhouse gas emissions

Icon: A cloud showing the word CO2 in front of a sun

Which sources of emissions are recorded?

When determining our operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, we follow the guidance of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) as the internationally recognised standard of climate auditing for companies. It provides for systematic recording of the main greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol (CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs, SF6, NF3). In order to be able to compare their impacts on the climate, they are converted into what are referred to as CO2 equivalents (CO2e)

How does the offsetting scheme work?

The basic idea of offsetting is simple: GHG emissions produced at one place in the global (economic) system can be offset by climate action projects elsewhere that demonstrably reduce GHG emissions. At what place a greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere is irrelevant to global warming. Of relevance are merely the volume and equivalent climate impact.

Project example: cookstoves

A climate project supports households in acquiring energy-efficient cookstoves, which they would otherwise not be able to afford, thereby reducing the need for firewood and lowering the associated GHG emissions. This climate impact is calculated, independently reviewed and certified as offset. Such projects can also strengthen the region’s sustainable development. More efficient and thus more climate-friendly stoves, for example, produce less smoke and thereby contribute to better health outcomes.

What is being offset?

We have been offsetting our domestic emissions since 2013 and our emissions outside Germany since 2020. More information on GIZ’s emissions can be found in the Climate and Environmental Data (PDF).

The offsetting effect of the certified emission reductions (CERs) purchased in a given year may therefore deviate from the emissions reported in our Climate and Environmental Data for the same year. We always ensure that all emissions reported in the Climate and Environmental Data are offset.

What quality standards do we apply to projects?

We critically assess the quality and effectiveness of carbon offset projects. These projects protect the climate only if the GHG reduction would not have occurred without them (additionality). Furthermore, they must not lead to negative effects on humans and nature but instead should offer positive co-benefits. That is why we set ourselves high quality standards for the purchase of CERs. We follow the procurement criteria that the German Federal Government applies to offsetting its business trips.1

Since 2019, we have purchased only CERs that have been verified against criteria of the Gold Standard Foundation and also comply with the „Gold Standard for the Global Goals“. This standard ensures that project activities contribute actively to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Specifically, we purchase CERs only from climate projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its follow-up mechanism.

In order to be registered as a CDM project, a project must meet ambitious criteria – besides additionality – and be assessed by independent experts. For one thing, CERs can only be issued for emission reductions that can be proved to have already occurred. For another, it must be demonstrated that the project does not lead to emissions elsewhere. After the CERs have been purchased they are verifiably cancelled under the supervision of the UNFCCC so as to prevent double counting. In addition to mitigating climate change, the objective of the CDM is to support developing and emerging countries in their sustainable development. That is why the CDM process also applies high standards to the project’s engagement on the ground and to its development results.

Wherever possible, we also support projects in the least developed countries (LDCs) as well as bundled micro projects (Programme of Activities, PoA) whose cost structure puts them at an economic disadvantage compared with larger projects. It is often precisely these micro projects that provide the greatest co-benefits, however. They include projects aimed at strengthening regional labour markets, protecting human health or preserving biodiversity and natural habitats, for example.

Which climate action projects have been selected?

Several projects from the latest rounds of tenders are described in more detail below.

Locations of carbon offset projects

Figure 1: Locations of carbon offset projects for 2017 to 2021
  1. Nigeria
  2. Rwanda
  3. Malawi & Mozambique
  4. Zambia
  5. Nepal
  6. China

Clean and affordable household biogas

Photo: A woman carrying two full buckets on a rod resting on her shoulders.
© UPM Umwelt-Projekt-Management GmbH

In rural regions of Nepal and the Chinese province of Sichuan, coal or firewood are the main sources of energy. However, these pose significant risks to human health and are an economic and social burden for low-income households. On average, they use around 15 per cent of their income to buy coal. They also collect firewood as an affordable alternative, which is very time-consuming work – usually done by women and children – while at the same time increasing the deforestation rate in the region. Moreover, the combustion process in traditional three-stone fires and outdated stoves is very smoke-intensive and harmful to health. Soot particles and carbon monoxide gas from the fires irritate people’s eyes and respiratory tracts.

Photo: A woman standing in front of a stone wall at a cooking stove holding a pot of water on a gas hob.
© atmosfair gGmbH

The people are already suffering from the impacts of climate change, such as severe landslides, flooding and soil erosion, which are aggravated by the logging of the forests that provide protection against such damage. In order to improve people’s living conditions while contributing to climate action, the projects supply low-income rural households with reliable and efficient biogas fermenters and stoves. The fermenters are filled with animal manure, which has usually been rotted in open pits and is then converted into clean and affordable biogas. This can then easily be used for cooking, heating or lighting. Families now spend less on buying coal and are no longer exposed to hazardous smoke. The risk of suffering burns is reduced.

Women and children in particular benefit from considerable time savings as they no longer need to set aside time to collect firewood. The switch means each participating family saves on average two to three tonnes of CO2e and several tonnes of firewood year after year. It also means families contribute to controlling soil erosion and preserving biodiversity. After fermentation, the fertile sludge can be used as natural fertiliser and thereby increase agricultural yields cost-effectively. There is also the option of connecting a toilet as a way of improving the hygiene situation. Construction and maintenance of the fermenters creates many local jobs.

Project overview: household biogas

Project titleNepal Biogas Support Programme PoA
Project numberCDM PoA 9572
Project operatoratmosfair gGmbH
Special featuresPoA, Gold Standard, LDC
Cancelled CERs (GIZ)         35,000 (2019–2020), 20,000 (2021)
CountryChina, Sichuan province
Project titleSichuan Rural Poor-Household Biogas Development Programme/td>
Project numberCDM PoA 2898
Project operatorUPM Umwelt-Projekt-Management GmbH
Special featuresPoA, Gold Standard
Cancelled CERs (GIZ)13,308 (2017–2018), 32,500 (2019–2020), 13,000 (2021)

The positive effects of the project in Nepal on SDGs 3, 7 and 13 have been verified against the Gold Standard for the Global Goals (GS4GG).

The positive effects of the project in Sichuan (China) on SDGs 3, 6, 7, 8 and 13 have been verified against the Gold Standard for the Global Goals (GS4GG).

Efficient stoves reduce deforestation and energy spending

Photo: Several piles of wood lying next to a road.
© atmosfair gGmbH

In the project countries on the African continent (Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda and Zambia), people in rural regions generally use firewood as fuel for cooking. The typical three-stone fires, however, are very inefficient at burning wood. With a family of seven requiring around five tonnes of wood per year, demand for firewood is high, as is the rate of deforestation of the remaining forests. Furthermore, using this type of fuel generates considerable economic strain as it requires low-income households to spend as much as 30 per cent of their income on the purchase of firewood. The project operators produce and sell efficient cookstoves together with local partner organisations.

Photo: Two women standing next to each another smiling.
© atmosfair gGmbH

These stoves reduce firewood consumption during cooking by as much as 80 per cent. The enormous savings mean the purchase pays for itself in only a few months. Besides, the stoves provide obvious social benefits for human health and gender equality. They allow the wood to burn cleaner, which leads to better air quality and reduces the risk of lung, respiratory and eye diseases. It is better for women and children in particular, who are exposed to hazardous smoke when cooking meals on an open fire. Acceptance among the families is very high. For one thing, the cookstoves save a great deal of time by reducing time spent cooking from around 4 to 2.5 hours a day, and for another, they can be easily integrated into traditional cooking habits. Unlike solar cookstoves, they can be used day and night.

Photo: A woman wearing gloves standing at a machine holding a mirror tile.
© atmosfair gGmbH

In Nigeria and Rwanda, for example, Save80 stoves are produced from high-quality stainless steel and would cost around EUR 90 at market prices, an unaffordable price for most households. That is why they are heavily subsidised for the end customers, cutting the price to around EUR 18, which can be paid off in instalments. All sales proceeds go to the partner organisations. The prefabricated materials are currently exported from Germany, while final assembly and sale of the cookstoves is done locally. The entire production chain is to be shifted to the partner countries in the near future in order to further strengthen local value creation. This approach will create attractive jobs (at least half of them for women) and will also benefit the transfer of knowledge and technology.

Project overview: efficient cookstoves

Project titleImproved Cookstoves Program for Malawi and cross-border regions of Mozambique
Project numberCDM PoA 9558
Project operatorC-Quest Capital Malaysia Global Stoves Limited
Special featuresPoA, LDC
Cancelled CERs (GIZ)         20,000 (2017–2018)
Project titleImproved Cookstoves Program for Zambia
Project numberCDM PoA 8060
Project operatorC-Quest Capital Malaysia Global Stoves Limited
Special featuresPoA, LDC
Cancelled CERs (GIZ)20,000 (2017–2018)
Project titleImproved Cook Stoves programme for Nigeria
Project numberCDM PoA 5067
Project operatoratmosfair gGmbH
Special featuresPoA, Gold Standard
Cancelled CERs (GIZ)22.,04 (2019–2020), 17,000 (2021)
Project titleImproved Cook Stoves programme for Rwanda
Project numberatmosfair gGmbH
Project operatorCDM PoA 6207
Special featuresPoA, Gold Standard
Cancelled CERs (GIZ)7,500 (2019–2020), 20,000 (2021)

The positive effects of the project in Rwanda on SDGs 5, 7, 8 and 13 have been verified against the Gold Standard for the Global Goals (GS4GG).

The positive effects of the project in Nigeria on SDGs 3, 13 and 15 have been verified against the Gold Standard for the Global Goals (GS4GG).

Information on the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be found on this page:

Graphic: GIZ: SDG 3 Good health and well-being
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 5 Gender equality
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 6 Clean water and sanitation
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 7 Affordable and clean energy
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 13 Climate action
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 15 Life on land

Information on the following sustainability standards can be found on this page:
GRI standard 305