What is the QAS?
The QAS is a not-for-profit company set up to audit carbon offset providers and airlines against the highest standards in the world. Carbon offsets which pass these stringent criteria earn QAS-Approval for 12 months at a time. Sourcing good carbon offsets can be hard for businesses or consumers wishing to become carbon neutral. A bewildering array of detail makes it difficult to ensure that the most marketable carbon credits are also the most robust and reliable. The QAS simplifies this complexity.
How does the QAS make it easier for businesses and consumers to buy carbon offsets?
At least 40 checks are carried out annually on QAS-Approved carbon offsets covering emissions factors, calculation methodologies, project methodologies, registry retiral, radiative forcing index, DEFRA Green Claims Guidance, pricing, information provision and individual company checks, so that businesses and consumers don’t have to. We also make sure that QAS-Approved carbon offsets steer clear of contentious issues such as large hydro projects, HFC23 or the use of carbon credits for investment purposes.
Is the QAS a trade body for the carbon offset industry?
No, the QAS is the only organisation which independently audits carbon offsets outside of the industry.It does not represent the industry for other matters either.
Applying for QAS-Approval
How can I apply for QAS-Approval?
Email firstname.lastname@example.org and request our application form. Complete and pay the required fee by bank transfer to: Quality Assurance Standard Ltd/ sort code 400926/ account number 61868926; IBAN: GB95MIDL40092661868926; BIC/SWIFT: MIDLGB2117V
What information do I need to apply for QAS-Approval?
You can find this information here (link to https://qascarbonneutral.com/carbon-offset-standards/#1)
What is a Statement of Account?
It is a template provided by the Independent Auditor to be completed and emailed to them every year when renewing QAS-Approval. It is not required for a first audit. Information includes total sales of QAS-Approved and non QAS-Approved carbon offsets over the prior 12 month period of approval (signed by a finance professional such as an accountant, auditor or bookkeeper), and also the credit retirement information to balance both offset accounts. This additional information must be provided within three months of the end of the relevant QAS-Approval period and is confidential between the Independent Auditor and the applicant. The QAS will not have access to it unless explicit permission is given by the applicant.
How much does it cost to apply for QAS-Approval?
This varies according to the size of the organisation applying. You can find details here. (link to https://qascarbonneutral.com/carbon-offset-standards/#1)
Does my organisation have to pay for every carbon offset I apply for?
No, the QAS charges a flat fee for auditing all the carbon offset products you apply for.
I am a carbon offset reseller. Should I apply or should it be my responsible provider?
Either, its up to you. But you may find it easier if your responsible provider applies on your behalf. You will be jointly responsible for providing the required information.
The QAS audit process
Who conducts the audit once I have successfully applied and my payment has cleared?
The independent Auditor, currently Ricardo Energy & Environment. All audit-related correspondence will take place through them once the audit has started.
How can I monitor my progress?
Once audit has commenced, the Independent Auditor will email all applicants with information on expected timelines, and direct contact details should you wish to enquire. The Approved page (link to https://qascarbonneutral.com/best-carbon-offsets/) on the QAS website will be updated at key milestones during audit with the results as and when they are released as follows:
GREEN – currently QAS-Approved or undergoing renewal
AMBER – under initial application or approved pending minor amends
RED – did not meet QAS requirements under audit or did not undergo renewal checks to ensure credit retiral compliance
How does the QAS ensure its audits are independent?
Audits are conducted by an Independent Auditor (IA). QAS-Approval is decided at their discretion according to the Procedures published by the QAS (link to https://qascarbonneutral.com/carbon-offset-standards/). Any discussions taking place during an audit between the IA and the QAS will be related to generic rather than applicant-specific issues.
Will any proprietary information provided by my organisation during audit be shared with the QAS?
No. The Independent Auditor (IA) is subject to a confidentiality agreement preventing it from discussing or sharing information provided by applicants with the QAS without the applicant’s explicit permission. Any discussions taking place during an audit between the IA and the QAS will be related to generic rather than applicant-specific issues.
Who interprets the rules laid out in the Procedures?
Practical considerations may require the expert judgement of the Independent Auditor during assessment, and lead to some deviation from the standard assessment criteria. Any judgement exercised by an auditor in this way will be clearly highlighted in the assessment feedback given. The Independent Auditor and the QAS may discuss generic rule interpretation during the audit, but not anything applicant-specific (unless explicit permission is given). The final decision is at the Independent Auditor’s discretion.
How long does QAS-Approval last for?
12 months, unless an adjustment is required to bring audit timing in line with other organisations or the applicant’s year end. This is at the discretion of the QAS.
Carbon footprint calculation
Does a provider have to submit all the carbon offsets it sells for audit?
No, but it is required that QAS-Approved and non QAS-Approved are clearly separated on the provider’s website to avoid any confusion.
Does the QAS insist that clients buying QAS-Approved products offset all their emissions?
No. The QAS demands accurate calculations but does not require a consumer or organisation to offset the emissions associated with the whole of their business/ lifestyle or for all of a defined activity – it is for the consumer or organisation to decide the scope of emissions that they wish to offset. For example a consumer may decide to offset domestic but not international flights or just one month’s electricity consumption. Organisations must communicate transparently to their stakeholders once the scope is decided.
Can real world emissions data be used where available?
Yes, in fact real world datasets should be used in preference to modelled data where available, for example the measured route-specific airline fuel consumption data that IATA uses for its flight offsets.
If real world data is not available, which emissions datasets are acceptable under the QAS?
Acceptable methodological approaches to modelled calculation include the WRI Greenhouse Gas Protocol, national methodologies such as DEFRA’s Voluntary Reporting Guidelines/ those used by the US EPA & the NZ Ministry for the Environment, and methodologies produced by respected independent organisations such as ISO, IEA, IPCC & the EU.
Will I have to update my emissions factors every year?
What Radiative Forcing Index factor does the QAS recommend for flight offsets?
We comply with the scope 2 accounting standard under the GHG Protocol. Which set of figures should be use for QAS audit?
Organisations which comply with the scope 2 accounting standard under the GHG Protocol should use the more appropriate of the two sets of figures available and be able to justify their choice. However the QAS recognises that double reporting for scope 2 emissions can be labour intensive and isn’t practical for every organisation, and so it is not a QAS requirement per se.
What should we do if emissions factors are not available for our activities?
If fuel/energy consumption data (e.g. gas or electricity use for office buildings) are not available or easily obtainable in units of energy (or volume or mass, alternate metrics (such as office floor area) can be used to estimate GHG emissions instead. Please discuss any specific examples with your auditor.
I am using manufacturer data for CO2 emissions relating to cars of vans. Must I uplift these figures to allow for ‘real world’ driving conditions?
Yes, by 22%.
If I use modelled data based on average flight distance or actual Great Circle flight distance, must I uplift to allow for indirect routings or delays?
Yes, by 8%. But note that this does not apply to real world datasets.
Carbon offset projects
Which carbon credits types can be used for QAS-Approved carbon offsets?
CERs, ERUs, EUAs, Gold Standard VERs or VCS version 2007 forwards which do not arise from projects which:
use hydro > 20MW project methodologies;
use the destruction of trifluoromethane (HFC-23) or nitrous oxide (N2O) from adipic acid production project methodologies; or,
are forestry-related unless based on sustainable REDD+ project methodologies which include adequate mitigation to cover project failure.
Are REDD+ projects allowed within QAS-approval?
Yes, REDD+ projects are the only forestry-based projects allowed within QAS rules, as they cover potential risks with carefully audited mitigation mechanisms.
How long do I have to retire credits being used to offset QAS-Approved carbon offset sales after the 12 month period of QAS-Approval during which they were sold?
How does the QAS ensure that credit retiral are not double counted between QAS-Approved and non QAS-Approved carbon offset sales?
The Independent Auditor requires and scrutinises parallel information for both, and keeps track from one year to the next.
What proof of credit retiral may the Independent Auditor require?
If the retiral is in the public domain then no additional information beyond the dates and certificate numbers may be required. However if it is not then direct access may be required to the registry for confirmation.
Must I explain how I calculate the carbon footprints for my QAS-Approved carbon offsets on the website which sells them?
Are there any requirements relating to the information what must be provided with QAS-Approved offsets?
Yes. Offset providers and resellers must make clear and truthful any marketing and advertising associated with QAS-Approved offsets in line with initiatives such as the DEFRA Green Claims Guidance. They must not mislead stakeholders.
What are the rules related to providing carbon offset pricing on my website?
You must provide at least two out of three of the following at or before the point of sale: total price, price per tonne and total tCO2e. It should also be clear to the consumer if the sales taxes are included or excluded where they exist in the country of purchase.
How much do QAS-approved carbon offsets cost?
If you are buying carbon offsets, QAS-Approval is free. Carbon offset providers pay an annual fee for QAS services which includes independent audit and certification.
Can I buy QAS-approved carbon offsets for investment purposes?
No. Carbon offsets allow you to take responsibility for the emissions left over after they’ve been reduced; they are not an investment product. If any company with QAS-approved carbon offsets is found to be selling them for investment purposes, QAS approval will be withdrawn and the company involved named on our website.
What is carbon offsetting?
Carbon offsetting is the process of investing in a project carefully designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in response to the emissions left over after they have been reduced as much as possible. The net result is zero – and combined with the reductions already made, carbon offsetting takes responsibility for the whole carbon footprint instead of just the most convenient part. Reducing your emissions without offsetting what’s left is a job half done.
Do carbon offsets avoid the need to reduce emissions?
Carbon offsets should never be used in isolation. Without also taking responsibility for reducing overall emissions, carbon offsets cannot avoid global warming. However they are the only way to tackle the emissions left after reductions have been made.