What Are Carbon Credits? Emissions Reduction Purchase Agreement (ERPA)

What Are Carbon Credits? Emissions Reduction Purchase Agreement (ERPA)

An Emissions Reduction Purchase Agreement (ERPA) is a vital contract for buying and selling carbon credits. These credits are permits for emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) sets the standards for ERPAs, helping businesses trade carbon credits.


An ERPA is a legal contract that facilitates the buying and selling of carbon credits. Carbon credits are permits or certificates that grant the right to emit carbon dioxide (CO2) or other greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere.

In an ERPA, buyers pay for the privilege to exceed their allocated CO2 emissions limit, while sellers receive compensation for committing to emit less CO2. The agreement is formalized through the signing of an ERPA document.

The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997 by 192 industrialized countries, represents a significant global agreement in the fight against climate change. Under the protocol, countries are assigned maximum CO2 emissions levels. Exceeding these limits results in penalties, such as a reduced emissions limit in subsequent periods. However, countries can participate in carbon trading through ERPA to offset their excess GHG emissions without incurring penalties.

The Importance of ERPA in Carbon-Offset Projects

The Emissions Reduction Purchase Agreement is a significant contract utilized in carbon-offset projects. It plays a crucial role in defining responsibilities, rights, and obligations related to project risk management, while also establishing the commercial terms for emissions reductions, such as pricing, volume, and delivery schedules.

These agreements are guided and standardized by organizations like the IETA, which facilitates carbon credit trading for various entities worldwide. ERPA transactions commonly take place between countries or corporations, where sellers can benefit from selling excess carbon credits if they have successfully implemented new technologies or projects to lower their greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, in certain instances, ERPA involves intermediaries representing community groups, making it essential to ensure clear and well-understood agreements among all parties involved.

Developing Countries

ERPA Agreements offer a way for developing countries to establish a track record, much like a credit score, in generating and selling carbon credits or utilizing them for their own emission reduction efforts. These agreements play a vital role in encouraging climate-conscious activities in these countries by providing substantial financial incentives to engage in emission reductions.

Key Areas of ERPA

ERPA documents come in various types, each with different impacts on a project and its participants. Nevertheless, every ERPA should address the following key areas:

  1. Quantity and price of emissions reductions to be delivered.
  2. Delivery and payment schedule of emissions reductions.
  3. Consequences of non-delivery: penalties and buyer's requests if the seller fails to deliver the specified emissions reductions.
  4. Consequences of default: what happens if the buyer doesn't pay, the seller provides false information, or if there are changes in a country's regulatory structure.
  5. General obligations of the seller, such as verification, certification, monitoring plan implementation, project operations, and delivering emissions reductions to the buyer.
  6. General obligations of the buyer, including establishing an account to receive emissions reductions, payment for the emissions reductions, and communication with relevant regulatory bodies.
  7. Project risks, their management, and the responsible parties.

Trading Carbon Credits

Buying and selling carbon credits is similar to trading shares in a stock market. The transactions are paper-based, and physical assets do not change hands. If you have the required funds and assistance, the process can be relatively straightforward. However, for newcomers, finding the right company for carbon credit trading and determining prices can be tricky. Understanding the different types of credits available and comparing them is also important.


The Emissions Reduction Purchase Agreement is essential for buying and selling carbon credits and fighting climate change. ERPAs should address specific key areas, and trading carbon credits can be similar to trading shares in a stock market. ERPAs play a significant role in carbon-offset projects and offer a way for developing countries to establish a track record in generating and selling carbon credits.

Carbon Credits
Emissions Reduction Purchase Agreement (ERPA)
International Emissions Trading Association (IETA)
Kyoto Protocol 1997
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