Learn more about carbon sequestration and the carbon credit market with this alphabetical list of related terms.

A through B


The establishment of a forest or stand of trees in an area where there was no forest.

Aggregation program

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

Anerobic digestion

A process by which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. The process is used for industrial or domestic purposes to manage waste and/or to produce fuels. Widely used to produce renewable energy. The process produces a biogas, consisting of methane, carbon dioxide and traces of other ‘contaminant’ gases. This biogas can be used directly as fuel, in combined heat and power gas engines or upgraded to natural gas-quality biomethane. The nutrient-rich digestate also produced can be used as fertilizer.

Baseline scenario

A hypothetical scenario of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would have occurred had the greenhouse gas reduction project not been implemented.

Ca. through Co.

Cap-and-Trade Carbon Market

In a cap-and-trade carbon market, governments place a cap on greenhouse gas (GHG)  emissions that may apply to the whole economy or to specific segments such as refineries or power plants. In such compliance markets, the cap often declines yearly since the goal is to reduce emissions over time. One example is the California Cap-and-Trade Program, which is part of the state’s overall strategy to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions to pre-1990 levels.  It then enables those companies that are producing more than the allowable amount to purchase or ‘trade’ for additional capacity from organizations that have not used their full allowance or have created carbon offset projects. Trading creates incentives to reduce greenhouse gases below allowable levels through investments in clean technologies.

Carbon credits

A carbon credit represents ownership of the equivalent of one metric ton of carbon dioxide that can be traded, sold or retired. If an organization is regulated under a cap-and-trade system (e.g., the California Cap and Trade Program) it likely has an allowance of credits it can use towards its cap. If the organization produces fewer tons of carbon emissions than it is allocated, the organization can trade, sell or hold the remaining carbon credits. When a credit is sold, the buyer is purchasing the seller’s allowance of emissions.

Carbon offsets

A carbon offset also represents a real reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and results in the generation of a carbon credit. The difference from a carbon credit is that the credit is generated as the result of a project with clear boundaries, title, project documents and a verification plan. In most cases, carbon offsets generate reductions outside of the organization and, more importantly, outside of any regulatory requirement. Common projects include building wind farms, supporting truck stop electrification projects to reduce tailpipe emissions, and planting trees or preserving forests.

Carbon farming

Farming in a way that reduces greenhouse gas emissions in its production processes, while increasing carbon sequestration in the landscape. May include single management changes, such as no-till cultivation or grazing management, to a whole farm integrated management plan. Benefits include carbon sequestration, reduced erosion and soil loss, healthier soils, vegetation and animals, greater water efficiency and the production of carbon offsets.

Carbon registry

Essential for issuing, holding and transferring carbon credits, each credit is issued a unique serial number so it can be tracked throughout its  life cycle. Registries also facilitate the retirement (surrendering) of credits ensuring that credits are not resold later.

Carbon sequestration

The process of removing greenhouse gas (GHG) from the atmosphere and depositing it in a reservoir or “carbon sink”, where the substrate absorbs more greenhouse gases than it emits. A pool (reservoir) that absorbs or takes up released carbon from another part of the carbon cycle.  Forests and oceans are large carbon sinks that partially offset greenhouse gas emissions by storing more carbon than they release.

Climate change

Refers to any significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature, precipitation, or wind) lasting for an extended period (decades or longer). Climate change may result from 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); human activities that change the atmosphere’s composition (through burning fossil fuels); and the land surface (for example, deforestation, reforestation, urbanization, desertification, etc.).

Climate change adaptation planning

Taking action to minimize the impacts of actual or expected climate change. It is reducing the vulnerability of people and places to the effects of climate change. It is also embracing positive consequences of climate change. The plan describes the adaptive capacity of the community – the ability of built, natural, and human systems to accommodate changes in climate (including climate variability and climate extremes) with minimal potential damage or cost.

Conservation planning

Supporting information for treatment of a unit of land for one or more identified natural resource concerns.  The plan describes the schedule of implementation for practices and activities needed to solve identified natural resource concerns. The plan may include 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. Conservation plans are developed and implemented to protect, conserve, and/or enhance natural resources within the client’s social and economic interests and abilities.

G through Z

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

A computer system design to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage and present all types of geographic data.

Greenhouse gases (GHG)

Any gas that contributes to the “greenhouse effect.” Any gas that absorbs infrared radiation (i.e., that traps heat) in the atmosphere. Natural and human-made greenhouse gases include, but are not limited to, water vapor, 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 normally reflected back into space by the Earth) by atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs). Global warming is believed to be the result of an accelerated greenhouse effect brought on by the increased concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases. 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.

Improved forest management

A methodology to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and/or enhance greenhouse gas 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, water, minerals and energy. It is a tribal policy document based on the visions that the tribe and tribal landowners have for their reservation. Should also be in harmony with a tribe’s cultural and life sustaining resources such as air, water, fisheries, and wildlife.

Plan Vivo Standard

The Plan Vivo Standard is a framework for community land use and forestry projects that certifies projects that demonstrate sustainability over the long term, and oversees the projects to ensure that they meet the intended goals. By quantifying ecosystem services, demonstrating good governance and measuring performance annually, Plan Vivo makes it possible to generate results-based payments to participants. Credits or ‘certificates’ generated can be sold on the voluntary carbon market.

Voluntary Carbon Markets

The voluntary carbon marketplace includes all transactions of carbon offsets not purchased with the intent to surrender them into an active regulated carbon market, as well as offsets purchased with the intent to re-sell or retire them to meet carbon neutral or other environmental claims. The voluntary market is driven by companies and individuals that take responsibility for offsetting their own emissions, and entities that purchase offsets before emissions reductions are required by regulation. Buyers may be driven by corporate social responsibility, corporate ethics or a desire to enhance their reputation. Voluntary carbon markets may be smaller than the compliance markets but they are more flexible and innovative in terms of finance, monitoring and methodologies.