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Carbon Credit


A carbon credit is a tradable permit that represents the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide or an equivalent greenhouse gas. These credits are used to help governments and companies manage their carbon emissions by setting limits and allowing entities to buy or sell credits as needed. The goal of this system is to encourage the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable development.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Carbon Credit” is:/ˈkɑr.bən ˈkrɛdɪt/

Key Takeaways

  1. Carbon credits are a market-driven solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By putting a price on carbon emissions, carbon credits create an economic incentive for businesses, organizations, and individuals to develop and implement environmentally friendly practices and technologies.
  2. One carbon credit represents the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Companies can offset their emissions by purchasing these carbon credits from projects or initiatives that reduce, remove, or sequester greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as renewable energy projects, reforestation efforts, or carbon capture and storage technologies.
  3. Carbon credit markets can be divided into two main categories: the Compliance Market, which operates under mandatory emissions reduction schemes and is regulated by governments, and the Voluntary Market, where businesses and individuals voluntarily offset their emissions by purchasing carbon credits. Both markets play an important role in global efforts to combat climate change and promote sustainable development.


Carbon credits are important in the realm of business and finance as they play a crucial role in combating climate change by assigning a monetary value to carbon emissions, thus promoting sustainable practices among industries. These tradable certificates are designed to incentivize companies to reduce their carbon footprint by capping their greenhouse gas emissions. Companies that emit fewer emissions than the allowed limit can sell their excess credits to businesses that exceed these limits, fostering a market approach to lowering global emissions. Consequently, carbon credits not only encourage organizations to implement clean technologies and embrace energy efficiency, but they also enable environmental responsibility to be financially rewarding and help countries achieve their sustainability targets.


Carbon credits serve as a valuable tool for addressing global climate change by providing a financial incentive for businesses and organizations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The primary purpose of carbon credits is to counterbalance the environmental impact caused by emitting carbon dioxide and other harmful gases into the atmosphere. By assigning a monetary value per ton of greenhouse gas emissions, carbon credits promote environmentally sustainable practices among industries and give them a direct incentive to invest in energy-efficient technologies and low-carbon processes. Moreover, this market-based mechanism allows companies with lower emissions to trade their excess emission allowances with those companies that surpass their assigned limits, resulting in a cost-effective approach to achieve collective emission reduction targets.

As a part of the broader Cap-and-Trade system under diverse environmental policies like the Kyoto Protocol and several regional initiatives, carbon credits play a pivotal role in promoting global climate change mitigation efforts. Companies that undertake projects to reduce or offset their emissions can earn carbon credits, which they can then sell to other businesses needing to reduce their carbon footprint. In addition to encouraging corporate responsibility towards global climate goals, carbon credits have also facilitated significant growth in the renewable energy sector by making cleaner energy sources more cost-competitive.

Furthermore, the sale of carbon credits brings financial benefits to organizations involved in afforestation, reforestation, and biodiversity conservation projects, thus encouraging participation in environmentally and socially beneficial activities.


1. European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS): Established in 2005, the EU ETS is the largest carbon credit trading scheme in the world. The system allows companies in the European Union to buy and sell carbon credits to comply with the EU’s overall emissions reduction targets. Companies that emit fewer greenhouse gases than their allocated carbon credits can sell their excess credits to companies that exceed their allocated limits, thereby adhering to the cap set by the EU ETS.

2. Clean Development Mechanism (CDM): The CDM is a component of the Kyoto Protocol, an international response to climate change. CDM enables industrialized countries with emissions reduction targets under the protocol to invest in emission reduction projects in developing countries. These projects generate Certified Emission Reductions (CERs), or carbon credits, which can then be sold or traded by the investing countries to help them meet their targets. For example, a company in Europe might finance the installation of a wind farm in India, which would then create carbon credits for the European company to offset its own emissions.

3. California Cap-and-Trade Program: Implemented in 2013, the California Cap-and-Trade Program is a market-based approach to controlling emissions in the state of California, USA. Under the program, companies operating in the state are required to hold carbon credits equivalent to their greenhouse gas emissions. Similar to the EU ETS, companies that emit less than their allocated credits can sell their excess to companies that exceed their limits. The program has successfully achieved its goals to reduce emissions in the state and serves as an example of the potential for wider US adoption of carbon credit markets.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Carbon Credit?

A carbon credit is a permit or certificate that allows its holder to emit a specific amount of greenhouse gas emissions, usually one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent. Carbon credits are used to regulate and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by incentivizing companies and organizations to invest in cleaner technologies and support projects focused on reducing environmental impact.

How does the Carbon Credit system work?

Carbon credits are often traded in the global carbon market, which functions like any other commodity trade. Companies that emit fewer greenhouse gases than they are allotted can sell their excess carbon credits to other companies that exceed their allowed limit. This creates a market incentive for companies to reduce their emissions, as selling surplus credits can generate revenue and buying additional credits can increase operating expenses.

Where do Carbon Credits come from?

Carbon credits are often generated through various environmental projects, such as renewable energy production, reforestation, and energy efficiency improvements. These projects are meant to offset the amount of greenhouse gases produced and released into the atmosphere. Regulatory authorities that oversee these projects issue carbon credits based on the verified reduction of emissions.

What are the different types of Carbon Credits?

There are two primary types of carbon credits: Voluntary Emission Reductions (VERs) and Certified Emission Reductions (CERs). VERs are generated from voluntary projects and can be traded among individuals or organizations outside the compliance market. CERs are issued by the United Nations and are used for compliance under the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty aimed at reducing global GHG emissions.

How does trading Carbon Credits help combat climate change?

Trading carbon credits establishes a financial incentive for companies to invest in cleaner technologies and adapt more sustainable practices. Through this market-driven approach, carbon credits can help to lower global greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging companies to limit their emissions and support environmentally-friendly projects. The trading aspect enables businesses to purchase and sell credits, stimulating economic growth while promoting a more eco-conscious mindset.

How are Carbon Credit projects verified?

Carbon credit projects are subject to rigorous verification processes by designated third-party organizations or regulatory authorities, who follow international guidelines and standards. Verification ensures that the projects are effectively reducing emissions and that the number of credits issued corresponds to the actual emissions reduction achieved.

Can individuals purchase Carbon Credits?

Yes, individuals can purchase carbon credits to offset their personal carbon footprint, such as emissions from travel or home energy use. Several companies and organizations offer the opportunity for individuals to buy carbon credits from verified projects to help offset their personal contributions to climate change.

Related Finance Terms

  • Cap-and-trade system
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Carbon Offset Projects
  • Emission Reduction Units (ERUs)
  • Verification and Certification

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