The Role Of Carbon Offsetting In Reducing Carbon Emissions
Carbon offsetting is an essential part of any comprehensive carbon management strategy. Through offsetting, anybody can take immediate action on climate change by compensating for their emissions whilst devising a strategy for reducing emissions over time. Calculating and monitoring your business or individual emissions is easier than you may think and can be done for free at www.climatefriendly.com.
What is offsetting?
Carbon offsetting enables individuals and businesses to compensate for their own emissions by supporting projects that demonstrate quantifiable and certified greenhouse gas emission reductions. You can also think of offsetting as providing extra incentives and support to renewable energy generation and cleaner technologies.
Projects that can prove a genuine and additional carbon saving are able to earn certified carbon credits. One credit is equivalent to one tonne of CO2. It is important to remember that only projects that would not otherwise be financially or technically viable can generate carbon credits, ensuring that the revenue from credits leads to emissions reductions above and beyond business as usual scenarios or government targets.
Offsetting means you can take immediate action to lessen your carbon footprint. To exist in the developed world with all of our modern conveniences it is almost impossible to achieve deep and rapid emission reductions without offsets.
Offsets enable you to empower others to make carbon reductions that may not be realistic or feasible for you to achieve alone in the short and medium-term. At the same time you have the satisfaction of contributing to the development of low-emissions infrastructure.
What projects are out there?
Offset projects are typically located in developing countries which do not have international targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
On the whole, offset projects support renewable energy development in places where oil, gas and coal dominate energy generation. Wind, geothermal, hydro and renewable biomass offset projects feed electricity into the grid and take the place of fossil-fuel based generation, therefore reducing the amount of carbon that would normally enter the atmosphere. Revenue from the sale of carbon credits helps make the projects cost competitive.
Other projects are designed to protect areas that are prone to deforestation due to economic pressures. One example is the Tasmanian Native Forest Protection Project. Not only are emissions from logging prevented, but habitats for a number of endangered species are maintained, including the wedge-tailed eagle, spotted quoll and the iconic Tasmanian devil.
Some projects have multiple additional social and environmental co-benefits. An example is the GERES Cambodian Cookstove project. Close to 90% of the Cambodian population depend daily on fuel-wood for cooking purposes. As a consequence, forest resources have become seriously threatened. The New Lao Stove saves 22% of wood and charcoal compared to traditional stoves. This increased efficiency provides both monetary and health benefits for users – less time is spent collecting wood and with cleaner combustion the stoves generate less soot.
Not all offsets are created equal
It is important that offsets are certified by one of the leading standards such as the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) or Gold Standard. These standards are also eligible under the Australian National Carbon Offset Standard. A project that supports carbon savings and has co-benefits such as bio-diversity, improved employment or health outcomes is an optimal choice.
Industry best-practice recommends that you should select your offsets to roughly match the period in which your emissions were generated. Consumers should therefore check the vintage of their offsets, ie. when they were created. Also, tree planting, although providing co-benefits, may not generate real carbon savings until well into the future.
Finally, choose an offset project that aligns with your personal or organisational values, which may be reflected in the technology, location, sector or co-benefits. Supporting these projects shows initiative and is an excellent engagement tool for you to use with your staff, suppliers and customers. It is therefore best to select one that you think resonates with yourself and your peers.
By offsetting, you are accelerating the transition to a clean energy future and supporting technologies that provide long term solutions against global warming and can facilitate a range of co-benefits to the community.
Alex Arnaudon is Account Manager at Climate Friendly, a business that helps individuals and organisations manage and reduce carbon emissions through the purchase of carbon credits.