Best Climate Practice in Germany: The Compensators

Best Climate Practice in Germany: The Compensators

By Climate Scorecard Germany Country Manager Zahi Badra

The Compensators is a small local NGO based in Berlin, that buys tradable emission certificates and permanently removes them from the market.

The EU ETS is the main European scheme for emission allowance and trading. The EU Commission issues around 2 billion certificates per year, with the amount being slightly decreased annually. This is the main mechanism for regulating CO2 emissions in the industrial sector and these certificates currently count for around 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU.

In recent years, this system has often been criticized for being too flexible and allowing too many emissions traded in a low price, which does not create a sufficient motivation to reduce emissions.

While reforms are constantly being discussed, The Compensators decided to play an active role in that market. By collecting donations and charging membership fees, they participate in this certificate trading – by buying them and removing them from the market. Not only do they decrease the available amount of emission allowances but they also increase the price of those certificates, which are available.

The Compensators were founded in 1996 by a group of scientists in the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and since then have been collecting donations from individuals and companies who wish to offset their carbon footprint in an efficient way.

In recent years, following legal reforms that effected the methodology of its operation, The Compensators reduced its purchases of emission certificates in 2018-2019, and took the time to develop a three-layer method, that ensures that the purchased certificates remain vacant in the ownership of the organization, and can’t be invalidated or reintroduced to the market. Furthermore, an emphasis was made on improving its PR strategies in order to reach wider audiences.

In 2020, the membership fees were increased, and the donations have more than doubled. This allowed The Compensators to spend a record sum (approximately 90,000 Euros) in purchasing emission certificates. With an average price of 25 Euro per ton on CO2 this year, these are 3,600 certificates which become unavailable.

A group of motivated volunteers are working further local and international campaigns in 2021. One of their main goals is to let as many people as possible know that they can effectively neutralize their carbon footprint – an average 10.4 tons of emissions – with a yearly donation of 250-300 Euros.

A detailed technical explanation about their methodology, annual reports on their activity and additional materials can be found on their website:

Image: Henrick Schuldt, The Compensators Leadership


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