To Neutralize Unavoidable Emissions
Committed to Achieving Carbon Neutrality by 2040
In 2017, McGill committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. A key takeaway from the development of this target was that the McGill community values emissions reductions on our own campuses and in our own activities first & foremost. For this reason, McGill's approach to carbon neutrality—as outlined in the Vision 2020 Action Plan—is to prioritize emissions reductions first, followed by increasing carbon sequestration on our own lands, and then incorporating carbon offsets.
Offsetting Unavoidable Emissions
Carbon offsets are “credits for GHG reductions achieved by one party that can be purchased and used to compensate the emissions of another party” (e.g. McGill). They are typically sold in units of one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). Offsets are a helpful way to neutralize impacts from unavoidable emission sources—such as air travel to attend McGill or conduct research. However, it is critical to remember that offsetting simply returns us to our baseline; it does not reduce our long-term carbon footprint. This is why, at McGill, offsetting is being done in tandem with concrete actions to reduce GHG emissions.
Not all offset projects are created equal in terms of quality, transparency, impact and co-benefits. To address this, McGill has taken a number of strategic steps in order to create a shortlist of recommended offset projects. The first step was to work with dedicated applied student research teams in the School of Environment and the Faculty of Management to review best practices, establish "pre-requisite criteria", and gauge the interest of our community in purchasing offsets. Following these initial research projects, the Offset Selection Committee—composed of students, faculty, and staff—developed additional criteria that fit our context and mission at McGill. This committee was responsible for reviewing projects against these criteria, and ultimately putting forward their recommendations.
Based on the selections of the Offset Selection Committee, we excited to be able to recommend three offset projects to our community. You can learn more about each project below. The recommended projects will be re-evaluated by the committee every few years.
Project Type: Carbon sequestration through reforestation
Project Location: Eastern Panama
Project Description: This reforestation project will help reduce McGill's institutional carbon footprint while strengthening its environmental and social sciences research, and providing benefits to collaborating local communities.
Project Type: Avoided emissions from climate education & action
Project Location: Québec, Canada
Project Description: The project aims to educate young people and their families in Québec about climate change and GHG emissions arising from daily choices.
Project Location: Québec, Canada
Project Description: Experimental forest plantations of are established in poorly regenerated areas (e.g. after successive forest fires) of the Canadian Boreal Forest or on portions of agricultural wasteland unsuitable for cultivation. Please note that research is ongoing into the trade-offs between carbon sequestration and surface albedo at higher latitudes.
Offsets and Research Grants
Offsets are not currently considered an eligible expense under the regulations of the Tri-Agencies. Members of our community are participating in conversations with the tri-agencies, and have submitted feedback and comments in this area.
Fonds de recherché du Québec
In their general rules published in June 2019, the FRQ included offsets as an eligible expense for the first time. Under section 8.5, “Travel and subsistence costs”, it is noted that ground travel costs may include the cost of carbon offsetting.