Dev Fund Proposal: Carbon offsetting

Advocate: me

Dev fund proposal: Carbon offsetting

Summary/abstract/main characteristics of this proposal:

Proof of work cryptocurrencies incentivise miners to use intense amounts of electricity in order to mine blocks. Although proof of stake protocols have been constructed, it seems that the zcash community has accepted proof of work as a necessary evil, at least at this point in time. As we’re thinking of new ways to alter the funding baked into the protocol, it seems like a good time to suggest that we use some of the funds mined to directly offset the carbon impact of mining. The percentage is completely up for discussion (is it possible to tie together the difficulty and the amount that goes towards carbon offsetting? is a fixed percentage of the block reward better?)

This can be composed with any other of the other dev fund proposals.

1 - Header

ZIP: unassigned.
Title: Carbon Offsetting Fund
Advocate: me
ZIP Status: Draft
**Community Status: Request for comments **
Category: Process
Created: 2019-08-31
License: public domain

2 - Terminology

To understand this ZIP it is critical that people understand the right terminology so their requirements can be quickly checked.


Have special meaning and people should familiarise themselves with it. -

3 - Out of Scope for this proposal

This proposal does not specify any funding for development. It could easily be combined with pretty much all other suggested changes to the dev fund that cover sustaining the development of zcash.

4 - Abstract

This proposal suggests that we reserve a portion of the newly minted coins in each block for offsetting the carbon footprint of mining the block itself. A set of carbon offsetting entities would be eligible to receive these funds. The fund would not be miner directed. The amount of the reward going towards carbon offsetting could either be tied to the difficulty of the block, or alternatively be fixed to some reasonably estimated upper bound on the carbon footprint of mining a block.

5 - Motivation

This is motivated by not wanting to have “destroying the planet” as one of zcash’s most prominent achievements.

6 - Requirements

Carbon-offsetting companies chosen by the zcash community must receive a portion of each block reward large enough to cover offset the carbon footprint of mining that block

7 - Specification

The community comes to consensus on one or several entities who is trusted with carbon offsetting, and then either we partner with this entity/these entities and directly transfer a portion of newly minted coins to their zcash address with each newly mined block, or a semi trusted third party receives the newly minted coins to their address, and then somehow publishes that they transferred them off-chain to the entities involved in carbon offsetting.

The amount transferred to this address could be tied to the difficulty of mining the block, or alternatively could be a fixed percentage that we would expect to reasonably comfortably cover offsetting the carbon footprint of mining that block.

Issues & Further Discussion

Raised objections and issues so far:

I’ll raise some:

  • It is not yet decided whether the amount going to offset is tied to the block difficulty or is a fixed percentage;
  • It is not yet decided what the percentage would be, if a fixed percentage of the block reward was chosen;
  • It is not yet decided which entity/entities will do the carbon offsetting;
  • It is not yet decided how those entities will receive the funds.


  • 2019-08-31 initial post
  • 2019-08-31 update to be more like a zip draft

For what it’s worth, I’m personally quite interested in this idea.

Since this is positioned as an add-on to a dev fund, we can probably skip the issues being discussed in more detail elsewhere. Some questions I’d like to see answered to make this a plausible draft are:

  1. How much carbon are we producing? Energy use seems like a reasonable proxy for developing a draft. How does that break down per-block at “reasonable” difficulty estimates?
  2. Do we know of any crypto-friendly carbon offsetters? Does anyone in the community know someone who has worked at or with such an organization before?
  3. How much money can be usefully deployed into carbon offsets? Does that align with per-block offsetting requirements?
  4. Are there preferred (or higher-leverage) forms of offsetting for the particular types of energy we consume?
  5. How do we verify that the offsetting organization is actually doing the thing we expect?

Even if we don’t encode this at the protocol level, knowing these things should be of value to any person or entity in the community who want to offset their Zcash-related carbon production.


imo, should voluntarily pay orgs you like with your own money. if miners feel paying an organization will stop climate change - let them do it on their own accord.


Beyond the questions about how much carbon production is caused by Zcash mining, which seem good to answer independently of any decision, would it still make sense to set up a carbon offset program, if we knew that we would move away from proof-of-work mining, or would it be better in that case just to focus efforts on reducing the carbon emissions?

Even if we move away from proof of work, running datacenters still has a carbon impact :slight_smile: We could enjoy having an examined offset mechanism regardless, as an available tool for the ecosystem as a whole.

If it looks like it might be simple and effective in the short term, we could set a program up just to cover us until we move off proof of work. It could end with whatever NU that is, with the “default” behavior then being to continue it if we don’t switch. I’m not really sure if this all makes sense, but I’d love to have more information to inform the discussion.

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