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Way to go Carbon Offset?




What is carbon offsetting?


Put it simply, in order to make up for your own emissions, you offset them by paying someone else to cut or absorb your GHG emissions. This is the typical model that most companies play around with today.

Just keeps emitting as long as you pay some compensation money, other will do the work.

Then you enjoy the benefit from the proud Carbon neutral/ Net zero badge. Big Deal!



Well, we all wish it is just simple like that.

Yet, we seem to miss some pieces in the whole picture, otherwise Science Based Target initiatives (SBTi) should take the blame for not counting offset in their scheme.



All Carbon Offset are the same? Just pick one and Pay for it


First thing first, let's look at some of the most common Carbon Offset types:



  • Forestry & Conservation Project: This could be considered as the most infamous Carbon Offset scheme, in which company pay money for other absorb your emission through plant new trees or protect the old ones.

  • Renewable Energy Project: Company use this type will invest money in renewable energy projects such as Wind, Solar, Hydro sites

  • Waste to Energy Project: Biogas must be named in this type. Company invest into project to capture emission such as methane and convert them into electricity.

  • Community Project: This type is rather an indirect approach where company involves in introducing energy-efficiency products/ technology to the underdeveloped areas.



So, all Carbon Offset are the same?


Definitely, Not. Some Offsets are better than others.

Some might work in reducing emissions, some do not.

But one thing for sure, Carbon Offset is a selling story itself. Company states to be Carbon neutral, to be working hard for the environment. Customers enjoy the rested feeling of supporting green company.

How many times have you bought a products because you see the Carbon Offset certificate on their website?

The problem is that company continue their business as usual.


What are the problems of Carbon Offset?


Sustainability

The " Go-to" planting tree Carbon Offset scheme.


To help the climate, offset programs "must permanently lock away" carbon emissions, as stated by Friends of the Earth. One of the most well-liked carbon offset initiatives is planting trees, but as recent forest fires in Europe and the US and the increasingly worrisome-wildfire cases have shown, "trees may burn down." Planting initiatives "can't ensure" the permanence of atmospheric carbon removal because trees "may also be damaged by pests" or "chopped down to make space for farms, highways, and so on." If this happens, these trees will actually be the source of emissions.



For instance, according to NGO CarbonPlan, nearly 30% of offsets sold through California's forest carbon offset program results in everything but actual climate benefits. And the wildfires in Oregon and California in 2021 destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of trees that were planted and sold as offsets.

Both situations demonstrate a worry regarding permanence that scientists raise: A good offset must result in a long-term decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. However, the gases will be released back into the atmosphere if it burns or cut down, say several years later.

Is that what we call Sustainability?



The new way of "Climate colonialism"


“the domination of less powerful countries and peoples by richer countries through initiatives meant to slow the pace of climate breakdown.”

"climate initiatives that exploit poorer nations' resources or otherwise compromises their sovereignty"



What do we need to plant trees? Of course! Land. Lots of land

Unlike the sky-high expensive land in developed countries, most of the available land for trees planting is in the less developed and developing countries, especially the areas of Indigenous people and politically under presented groups. There are already cases that Carbon Offset schemes violently forced thousands of Uganda people out of their own ancestor land, put them to food scarcity and starvation (Oakland Institute, The Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda). Similar things are also happen with renewable energy projects.

Is this what Carbon neutral we want to see?


Additionality


Well, it is better than nothing. Or it is the additional for what company already did.

Additionality means that the amount of emissions reduction obtained by an Offset project need to be "extra" to what would happen anyway.

But it is not easy to evaluate whether these reduction are additional or not.

According to the Carbon Offset Research and Education initiative, it only makes climate change worse if we trading the one that is not additional. It is an absolute distraction.


So what should company do?

  • Start with cutting your direct emissions: increase the percentage of renewable energy in the energy mix, buying electric vehicles, and minimizing employee commute

  • Hotspot assessment and building capacity for supply chain to reduce their emission.

  • And be careful with Carbon Offset. It is always " go-to" to prevent which mean that prevent GHG being emitted into atmosphere at the first play.

We need a Change the way of running any business.

Because maybe the glorious era of GHG offset wont be around for long.





References





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Hello

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I started Sustainability House with the goal of offering readers a glimpse into my thoughts and experiences. What started out as weekly posts have evolved into a dynamic site packed with information about various topics that are near and dear to me. Take some time to explore the blog and see for yourself what makes you curious and eager.

 

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