Voluntary carbon offsets program

We’re developing a voluntary carbon offsets program for anyone who wants to start a project that produces voluntary carbon offset credits.

The program will also support our carbon-neutral commitment.

Carbon offsets

A carbon offset is an environmental benefit from an initiative that avoids or reduces greenhouse gas pollution from the environment.

A voluntary carbon offset may be used to compensate for greenhouse gas pollution emitted by another source.

Voluntary carbon offsets are measured in metric tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e). Voluntary carbon offsets are distinct from compliance offset credits which can be used in the regulated carbon market.

Program framework

We’ve posted the voluntary carbon offsets program framework to the Environmental Registry.

The framework explains what we’re looking for while screening potential projects for participation in the voluntary offsets program. It also describes the methods that must be followed when developing Ontario voluntary carbon offset credits.

In addition to showing measurable greenhouse gas reductions, projects must also generate environmental and community co-benefits that will occur as a result of a project’s implementation.

We’ll continue to work with Indigenous organizations and communities, stakeholders and other partners to complete the development of the voluntary carbon offsets program.

Who can buy Ontario voluntary carbon offsets credits

Buyers of Ontario voluntary carbon offset credits may include:

  • governments
  • the private sector
  • other organizations that wish to voluntarily reduce their carbon footprint

Limitations for capped emitters

Voluntary carbon offsets credits will not be eligible for use in the cap and trade program. The voluntary carbon offsets program is separate from the compliance offsets program.

Voluntary carbon offset credits

One voluntary carbon offset credit represents the reduction of one metric tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2e) or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.

If you wish to develop a project and apply for Ontario voluntary carbon offset credits, you must show that your project reduces, avoids or sequesters greenhouse gases in a way that is real, additional, permanent, verifiable, quantifiable and unique. These requirements and criteria are shared internationally across many carbon offsets programs.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) quantification

If you want to develop projects under the Ontario voluntary carbon offsets program, three GHG quantification methodologies have been identified to measure the GHGs your project will reduce, remove, avoid, or sequester:

  1. ISO 14064-2 Standard
  2. Verified Carbon Standard (VCS)
  3. World Resources Institute (WRI) Greenhouse Gas Protocol

These methodologies are rigorous, market-tested and will give project developers flexibility in creating projects. The Ontario voluntary carbon offsets program will enable the adoption of other GHG quantification methodologies, and applicable Ontario protocols as they become available.

Co-benefits: going beyond GHG reductions

To participate in the Ontario voluntary carbon offsets program as a project developer, you will also be required to identify environmental and community co-benefits that will result from implementing your project and support the objectives below.

Five objectives have been established for the development of voluntary carbon offsets projects:

  1. Support sustainable and healthy communities through clean air, water and land.
  2. Improve community and climate resilience and adaptive capacity.
  3. Support and enhance biodiversity conservation by restoring and conserving ecosystems and species.
  4. Support resource efficient, innovative, high-productivity, low carbon communities.
  5. Protect sites, habitats and landscapes of cultural, archaeological or historical significance.

These objectives support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) within Ontario. In 2015, the international community adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 UN SDGs to shift the world to a sustainable and resilient path. Co-benefits generated through voluntary carbon offset projects should support both the program objectives and many of the UN SDGs.

Identifying environmental and community co-benefits and showing how they support the program objectives and UN SDGs will help you communicate your project’s environmental achievements to prospective buyers.

Tools and resources

An Ontario Voluntary Carbon Offsets Standard is currently being developed to define the process for credit creation. Registry infrastructure and services will also be established to facilitate project registration, and tracking and retirement of voluntary carbon offset credits.


Read the Environmental Registry Decision Notice on developing a voluntary carbon offsets program for Ontario.