Glossary of Terms



A land-use change followed by the establishment of forest on land that has been in a non-forest use for ten years or longer.

Aggregation Program:

An approach designed to qualify greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions offsets by grouping geographically dispersed activities that reduce GHG emissions in a similar manner. In practice, this means combining individual projects that reduce less than 100 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per year into a single aggregated project that may deliver 10,000 tCO2e or more per year to reduce transaction costs and meet expected demand for compliance offset buyers.

Baseline Scenario:

A hypothetical scenario of GHG emissions that would have occured had the GHG reduction project not been implemented.


A combustible gas derived from decomposing biological waste under anaerobic conditions typically consisting of 50-60% methane.

Cap-and-Trade Carbon Market:

A carbon market driven by government oversight of industries emitting high levels of GHGs. Government regulations dictate the amount of carbon dioxide companies can emit and companies lower emissions through changes in methodology or output, buying carbon credits from sellers who have additional credits or are sequestering more carbon than they release, or use some combination of both methods.

Carbon Credits/GHG Offsets/Reduction Credits:

Marketable certificates representing reductions in GHG emissions. Offsets generated by emission reductions in one place may be used to cancel out excess GHG emissions anywhere in the world and are generally sold as tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) or carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), with each credit representing a pollution reduction worth one ton of CO2.

Carbon Farming:

A method of farming that reduces GHG emissions in production processes while increasing carbon sequestration in the landscape. It may include anything from single management changes (e.g. no-till cultivation or grazing management) to a whole-farm integrated management plan. Benefits include carbon sequestration, reduced erosion and soil loss, increased soil health, greater ecological diversity, and improved water efficiency.

Carbon Market:

A platform for the exchange of carbon credits/offsets for monetary compensation between industries sequestering carbon and industries emitting carbon beyond desired or mandated levels. There are voluntary and cap-and-trade models across the United States and internationally.

Carbon Registry:

Essential for issuing, holding, and transferring carbon credits, serial numbers are issued to each credit so that it can be tracked through its entire life-cycle. Registries also facilitate the retirement (surrendering) of credits for carbon neutrality purposes, ensuring credits are not resold at a later date.

Carbon Sequestration:

The process of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and depositing them into a reservoir or carbon sink where the land absorbs more GHGs than emitted. For example, if the net exchange between the atmosphere and the biosphere is moving toward the biosphere, the atmosphere is the source of carbon and the biosphere is the sink. Forests and oceans are large carbon sinks that partially offset GHG emissions by storing more carbon than they release.

Climate Change:

Refers to any significant change measured in the climate (such as temperature, precipitation, or wind) lasting for an extended period (decades or longer). Changes may result from external natural factors such as changes in the Sun's intensity or slow changes in the Earth's orbit around the Sun, natural processes within the climate system (such as changes in ocean circulation), and/or human activities that change the atmosphere's composition (through burning fossil fuels) or landscape surface (for example: deforestation, reforestation, urbanization, desertification, etc.).

Climate Change Adaptation Planning:

Taking action to minimize the impacts of actual or expected climate change; reducing the vulnerability of people and places to the effects of climate change; embracing the positive consequences of climate change; and describing the adaptive capacity of the community - the ability of built, natural, and human systems to accomodate to changes in climate (including climate variability and climate extremes) with minimal potential damage or cost.

Conservation Planning:

Gathering information for treatment of a unit of land for one or more identified natural resource concerns, describing the schedule of implementation for practices and activities needed to solve identified natural resource concerns, and including component plans that address one or more resource concerns. Example component plans include: Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan, Grazing Plan, Integrated Pest Management Plan, Wildlife Management Plan, etc. Plans are developed and implemented to protect, concerve, and/or enhance natural resources within the client's social and economic interests and abilities.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS):

A computer system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographically related data.

Greenhouse Gases (GHG):

Any natural or man-made gas that absorbs infrared radiation (i.e. that traps heat) in the atmosphere, including but not limited to: water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), ozone (O3), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

Greenhouse Effect:

The warming of the Earth's surface and lower atmosphere due to the trapping of infrared energy (solar radiation reflected back into space by the Earth) by atmospheric GHGs. Some of the heat flowing back toward space from the Earth's surface is absorbed by water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone, and several other gases in the atmosphere and then reradiated back toward the Earth's surface. If the atmospheric concentrations of these greenhouse gases rise, the average temperature of the lower atmosphere will gradually increase. The greenhouse effect is believed to be the cause of global warming.

Improved Forest Management:

A methodology to reduce GHG emissions and/or enhance GHG removals in managed forests including the conversion from conventional logging to reduced impact logging, conversion to protected forests, and the extension of rotation lengths.

Integrated Resource Planning:

A tribe's strategic plan for the comprehensive management of a reservation's resources including extractive productive resources such as forestry, range, agriculture, minerals, and energy; A tribal policy document based on the visions that a tribe and tribal landowners have for their reservation in harmony with a tribe's cultural and life-sustaining resources such as air, water, fisheries, and wildlife.

Quantification Protocols:

Standard project methodologies used to calculate the carbon credits issued from a project; Formulas and calculation parameters of the GHG reductions.


Reestablishing a forest on land where forest cover has been lost,usually through a severe disturbance that is not the result of intentional management activity or gross negligence and where the desired forest is not regenerating naturally.

Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (tCO2e):

Carbon credits are measured as tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). Each carbon credit represents 1 ton of tCO2e. The word "equivalent" is used because some GHGs are more potent contributors to climate change than carbon dioxide so they are assigned a global warming multiplier like 21 for methane and 310 for nitrous oxide.

Voluntary Carbon Market:

Credit buyers in these markets enter into the market on a completely voluntary basis. Since no governmental regulations are mandating decreases in these companies' GHG emissions, motivations for purchasing credits often come from the moral philosophies of the company and a desire for a positive public image. Generally, a carbon credit in a voluntary market is worth less monetarily than in a cap-and-trade system.

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Carbon credit projects use land management practices that boost the ability of natural CO2 sinks like plants and soils to remove carbon as CO2 from the atmosphere. Opportunities for indirect sequestration are found in forests, grasslands, wetlands and croplands.

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Carbon credit trading is a cost-effective solution toward mitigating environmental pollution that originated under the first Bush administration’s efforts to reduce acid rain.


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Carbon credits in North America are currently traded on voluntary offset markets and through regional GHG compliance programs. Prices for carbon credits are higher in compliance programs because there is greater demand for credits from regulated entities.