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Companies are snapping up carbon offsets, but the patchwork of informal markets serving that appetite lack consistent standards and oversight, some businesses say, making their effectiveness in cutting emissions hard to gauge.

The basic concept behind offsets is that activities like planting trees and restoring peatlands reduce atmospheric carbon. Dozens of private companies and nonprofits develop such projects, evaluate the level of carbon reduction and issue credits, equivalent to one metric ton of emissions. These credits are then certified by a third party, which confirms that the projects exist and meet certain standards.

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