You may have seen articles recently - particularly this one in the UK's Guardian newspaper - discussing issues with some avoidance carbon credits, particularly around overreporting baseline measurements to increase the credits it can produce.
We've been talking about this for quite a while, so we're a little surprised that folks are surprised.
Like many things in climate change & the voluntary carbon markets it's a spectrum, rather than something being simply good or bad. Avoidance and nature-based solutions (NBS) have a place.
It very much depends on the intention behind the project and, when issuing carbon credits* for it how the buyer uses them.
Not all climate solution investments are created equal!
Some things are good, some things are bad. There’s a bunch of gray and not all projects' primary value should be measured in tonnes of carbon.
Some project's value is primarily in the co-benefits associated with it. These are the nature, biodiversity, human health or economic or climate justice values that are part of the project.
Of course, some avoidance are actually terrible and do very little on either reducing and removal carbon or creating co-benefits.
We can do better. We believe that anything that increases transparency and improves accountability is going to help.
With 95% of the voluntary carbon markets being made up of avoidance offsets we’re due an overhaul.
We need more carbon credits that actually focus permanence and additionality of the carbon being removed from the atmosphere.
That isn't to say there isn't a place for project's whose main value is in the co-benefits. There is an active and healthy debate happening about what the "unit of measure" should be for these, if it's not possible to scientifically justify that unit being tonnes of carbon.
Here at Zopeful we're not interested in throwing shade on other people's genuine efforts to create climate solutions of whatever kind.
What do deeply care about, however, is that things that are touted as climate solutions actually do what they say and are firmly grounded in data and rigorous science. That's why our carbon removal portfolios focus first on permanence and additionality and then take everything else into consideration. In fact, we’re developing a custom carbon removal methodology to test projects for it.
We've been making the case on why we should invest in carbon removal now and drastically reduce the reliance on avoidance due to the latters difficult to quantify (at best) impact on reducing or removing the atmospheric carbon dioxide we put there heating the planet.
Investing in natural carbon sinks - like forests - is a part of tackling climate change. No one thinks that concreting the world and building a million DAC plants is winning! Nature-based solutions with 100 year temporary carbon storage are a necessary and important part of a balanced approach.
We’re confident that good NBS projects are out there, but right now, absolutely, the variation in quality - based on our criteria - is huge.
Yup, there's no sure way of knowing on the surface, even if they've been accredited. Absolutely, comparing at the top level is hard. You need to dig. That takes time and knowing what to look for.
Not all avoidance or nature-based projects are bad. Not by a long way. It has a lot to do with how we measure their impact and value. This said, we can, and should, and need to do better. Or, at the very least shift the unit of measure for some projects away from tonnes of carbon, if that's not a measurable value or primary reason for that project to exist.
If you'd like to go deeper into all things climate join our free 14-day Intro to Climate course, or if you're thinking about the role of carbon removal join our free 3-day Carbon Removal Online Course.
They start every Monday and each installment is an easy-to-read in 5 to 10 minute burst!
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PS - you can find explainers on the terms in italics with astericks* in our Climate Buzzword Dictionary (yes, we're aware it's more of a glossary!)
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