Last updated:
May 24, 2024

Oxford Principles

What are the Oxford Principles?

The Oxford Principles for Net Zero Aligned Carbon Offsetting provide a framework designed to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of carbon offsetting efforts as part of wider strategies to achieve Net Zero emissions. These principles were developed to guide organisations in using carbon offsetting responsibly and effectively, emphasising the role of offsetting in the broader context of emissions reduction.

The principles are as follows:

  1. Cut emissions, use high-quality offsets as part of a net zero strategy: Offsetting should not be used as a substitute for reducing one’s own emissions. Organisations should prioritise reducing their own emissions and use offsets as a complementary measure within a broader net zero strategy.
  2. Shift to carbon removal offsetting: Organisations should gradually shift towards offsetting strategies that focus on removing carbon from the atmosphere, rather than relying solely on emissions reduction projects.
  3. Use best practice for offsetting: Offsets should meet high standards of quality, ensuring they are additional (meaning the carbon savings would not have occurred without the offset), based on a sound methodology, and subject to independent verification. They should also be subject to robust legal contracts that ensure the environmental integrity of the offsets.
  4. Support the development of Net Zero aligned offsetting: As the market evolves, organisations should support the development of new offsetting methods and projects that align with a trajectory towards global net zero emissions, ensuring that offsetting reflects the latest scientific and technological advancements.
Oxford principles for net zero carbon offsetting graph

How do these principles relate to achieving Net Zero?

The Oxford Principles are directly linked to achieving net zero emissions by providing a clear and structured approach to offsetting that complements direct emissions reduction efforts.

By emphasising the importance of carbon removal and the gradual shift away from emission reduction projects, the principles guide organisations in contributing more effectively to the global goal of Net Zero. This approach ensures that offsetting efforts are not only credible and verifiable but also aligned with the latest climate science and the urgent need for action.

What is the difference between the Oxford Principles and other climate frameworks?

The primary distinctions between the Oxford Principles and other frameworks like the IPCC and the SBTi lie in their specific focus, application, and guidance on offsetting:

  • The Oxford Principles specifically address the integrity and strategic use of carbon offsetting within net zero strategies, while the IPCC offers broad scientific assessments on climate change, and the SBTi provides methodologies for setting science-based emissions reduction targets.
  • The Oxford Principles offer detailed and practical guidance on selecting and implementing carbon offset projects, focusing on quality, additionality, and the shift towards carbon removal. Meanwhile, the SBTi and IPCC state that only carbon removal credits can be used for Net Zero and neutrality claims.

It is important to note that The Oxford Principles are not a substitute for the IPCC or SBTi. Instead, organisations should evaluate all of the frameworks and guidelines in a holistic manner.  

How can businesses integrate the Oxford Principles into their sustainability strategy?

To incorporate the Oxford Principles effectively, businesses should:

  1. Align business strategies with the goal of reducing direct emissions first, complementing these efforts with high-quality, verifiable offsets that adhere to the principles.
  2. Shift towards investing in carbon removal projects, in line with the principles’ guidance, to support long-term climate goals.
  3. Ensure offset projects are additional, verifiable, and contribute to sustainable development, following the principles’ recommendations for best practices.
  4. Engage with and invest in the development of new, net zero-aligned offsetting solutions, reflecting the principles’ call for supporting the evolution of the offset market.

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