When you offset your emissions with Certified Emission Reduction units (CERs), you choose to take climate action through a process which is overseen by the United Nations. You purchase CERs that are issued from trustworthy climate-friendly projects called Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects. CDM projects take place in developing countries and contribute to their sustainable development. Each project goes through a strict and thorough vetting process.

The CDM process involves variety of stakeholders such as the project participants who own the projects, host-country national authorities who oversee national implementation, independent auditors know as the Designated Operational Entities, the UNFCCC CDM Executive Board and its secretariat. At a higher level, all CDM work is coordinated and directed by the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), the ultimate body responsible for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol where all member states take collective decisions.

1. Project design

Project participant prepares a project design document, making use of an approved emissions baseline and monitoring methodology.

2. National approval

Host-country Designated National Authority for CDM approves the project and its contribution to national sustainable development.

3. Validation

Designated Operational Entity, an accredited, third-party auditor, validates the project design.

4. Registration

CDM Executive Board assesses the validated project for registration.

5. Monitoring

Project participant monitors the actual emissions according to the approved methodology.

6. Verification

Designated Operational Entity verifies that emission reductions took place, in the amount claimed, according to the approved monitoring plan.

7. CER Issuance

CDM Executive Board assesses the verified achieved emission reductions for issuance of CERs

8. Offsetting

Company or individual pays for the cancellation of CERs to compensate for their emissions. The project generates revenue to operate.

The offsets issued from the CDM are recorded and tracked in the Kyoto Protocol's registry system. This is an elaborate electronic network of registry databases that meticulously accounts for each offset. The UN carbon offset platform is fully integrated with the CDM registry which issues all CERs.

Sustainable development co-benefits of the projects

The CDM records information about the non-mitigation benefits of the projects, which are commonly referred to as sustainable development (SD) co-benefits. The projects voluntarily report their co-benefits in three categories: environmental, social and economic.

Environmental co-benefits include:

- Air: Improved air quality

- Land: Improved soil quality or avoided pollution

- Water: Improved water quality or access

- Natural resources: Depletable natural resources protection or enhancement

Social co-benefits include:

- Education: Education, research, awareness raising or distribution of information

- Health and safety: Improved health and safety

- Jobs: Job or income generation

- Welfare: Improved social welfare (community upliftment)

Economic co-benefits include:

- Energy: Improved energy availability or access

- Growth: Support to economic development or stability

- Balance of payments: Improvement of the country's trade balance

- Technology: Technology transfer or diffusion