Last week I spoke about the wonderful world of intertidal habitats like wetlands and their functioning in terms of ecosystem services and in particular carbon storage,
But what are we really talking about when we talk about carbon storage to mitigate emissions ?
As I explained last week, plants play huge role in trapping carbon from the atmosphere - and so a supposedly ‘easy way’ to offset emission is to plant some greens..
but how does this work in practice ?
Have you ever ticked the carbon offset box when buying a flight and wondered where those money went? Likely towards a ‘green project', planting a tree somewhere (or something to do with making a renewable energy project or increasing energy efficiency, like getting better cooking stoves ...)
One should wonder how this can be quantified , but there is an answer to this : carbon credits! Let me explain..
A carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. Offsets are measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2 e). One tonne of carbon offset represents the reduction of one tonne of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases. The offset is a trading scheme, whereby carbon credits are bought in carbon markets. In the European Union, this happens under the European Union Emission Trading Scheme, which was the first large greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in the world and a major pillar of European Union Policy (towards the 20% emission reductions to be achieved by 2020, relative to 1990).
Now, there are two types of markets : a compulsory one and a voluntary one. I think the names are pretty much self explanatory, but the fact that deserves a should mention is that we are moving away from the ‘compulsory one’ as compulsory measures are now focusing towards reducing rather than offsetting emissions. Nonetheless, since we are not yet at the zero emission stage, it can only be a good thing to take part in the voluntary market to offset the necessary left over emissions.
Carbon offsetting projects have however been heavily criticized. Examples include investments in renewable energy projects, and land use change/reforestation. The criticism arises mostly due to poor transparency in these offsets, because the offset is implemented far away or in other countries , making it possible for fraudulent activity to take place. Moreover, offsetting projects are mostly conducted in developing countries (most reforestation occurs in South America). So, if you are wondering where are your money ending up - well you are wondering well!
Also, the carbon market is now not yet doing so well. A tonne of CO2e (so one credit) costs about €15 on average, which will not allow for proper offsetting projects to take place in developed countries (and maybe one of the reasons why most projects are based in the Third World..) .
However, offset can be done properly, following protocols and being certified by reliable entities (like Verra) which have strict protocols. So it's not all doom and gloom and I think they can be properly done and I believe that if properly used it can be a great great tool to help us fight climate change.
Another great solution that I have seen a company do lately, instead of buying offset by paying a third party something to do it for them, they promised to plant a tree for each of the products sold. They are releaf - and you can help them here (their crowdfunding campaign ends soon - hurry up and make this zero emission company become a reality!)
There is hope!
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