What is a Carbon Offset?
A Carbon offset is basically a certificate that validates the removal of one metric ton of Carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon offset companies develop projects that help in reducing the carbon dioxide emissions or capturing the emitted carbon dioxide which is also removal of carbon from the system. Hence every ton of emissions removed equals to one carbon offset, which the companies can then sell to raise funding for their projects.
Types of Carbon Offsets
Carbon offsets can be generated in numerous ways, but none of them are cheap, and that’s the reason companies involved in developing such projects rely on selling their carbon offsets to finance their projects.
There are three ways in which carbon emissions can be reduced.
- Capturing and destroying the Greenhouse gases.
- Using sustainable methods to produce energy.
- Capturing and storing the greenhouse gases.
The cost for offsetting a tonne of Carbon dioxide is approximately US $12. However, the cost to everyone varies, as the cost is calculated based on an individual’s carbon footprint for the year which would include all activities all day’s year round or may be for a particular activity such as a flight or a holiday etc…. And the cost will also vary depending upon the kind of carbon offset project. Therefore, the amount to purchase carbon credits to offset one’s carbon footprint will be directly proportional to the individual’s carbon footprint.
Boon and Bane of Carbon Offsetting
As with all things Carbon offsetting has its share of positives and negatives. While the positives are obvious, the negatives are illogical. Parallels have been drawn with emitting carbon and committing a crime. Defining both to be ok as you are buying a credit that offsets your carbon emissions in the first case and in the second case you are paying someone else to not commit the crime as you have committed it and paid for committing it. But no one was aware of the bane around automobiles and gasoline as they were invented, it was all boon when these things came into the market. However, a crime has always been a crime. So, it would not make sense to connect the two as being same. Also, as we see an invention making inroads in the automobile industry – the EV, which now we understand it to be pollution free, but as with all other previous inventions, may be with this one too, we may find some hazards to the environment and the climate in the future via its usage.
Emissions are going to happen and incorporating offsetting them and at the same time moving to more sustainable methods of living will be the way forward. Individuals and Businesses buy the offset credits by calculating the emissions through their activity or activities, thus becoming carbon neutral. Besides buying carbon offset credits there are products that include carbon neutrality within their price. For example, you may buy a car which has the carbon neutrality cost of manufacturing it and say around 5 years of usage cost sunk into the price of the car, hence your activity of driving is carbon neutral. Which is better than not driving at all, as some people find the whole concept of carbon offsetting a scam, and hence their solution would be to advise people to not buy cars, to stop driving etc…. all of which is not possible, as it would mean collapsing entire industries and hence millions of jobs and livelihoods.
Certifying Carbon Offsetting
Carbon offset projects are expensive, hence questionable by individuals and businesses regarding their effectiveness and efficiency in offsetting carbon. The Voluntary Gold Standard (VGS) certifies offsets as per the rules laid down in the Kyoto protocol and benefit the local community. The Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) follows similar auditing processes as the VGS but is less expensive and more facilitative to smaller projects.
Notable Companies dealing in Carbon Offsets
Terrapass helps reducing the impact of the carbon emissions by focusing on funding projects in reforestation, farm power, and landfill gas capture to remove carbon from the environment. In 2020 Terrapass customers offset the same amount of carbon as planting over 7 million trees.
Biochar works with small farmers to create Biochar from the waste biomass or crop waste, instead of burning it. The sequestered carbon is verified and certified, provide access to global carbon offset markets and ensure immediate payments to the farmers. Apart from sequestering carbon, it is ensuring farmers get additional income from the crop waste.
ClimatePartner is a Germany based company that offers climate action solutions. The company helps in calculating your carbon footprints, and formulate and implement climate action strategies. With the help of Carbon offset projects, they help many companies produce carbon neutral products.
Notable Carbon Neutral Products
Babor stands for luxury cosmetics made in Germany. It’s a third-generation proprietary business. The company set up a distinctive plan for sustainability: the Green Agenda, providing answers and solutions in the areas of carbon emissions, packaging, and ingredients.
Babor focusses on avoiding carbon emissions by producing with green electricity, photovoltaics, and carbon neutral eco natural gas since 2014. Its offices and production facilities are highly energy efficient and self-sufficient respectively.
Focus Water is a modern, low-calorie drink with a rich mixture of vitamins and minerals. It supplies the body with important elements of daily needs and does not contain any artificial sweeteners or additives. Having successfully grown, the company along with ClimatePartner has implemented processes to ascertain its carbon footprint. From avoiding carbon emissions where possible to reducing emissions and using offsets for unabated emissions, Focus Water has achieved its carbon neutrality.
Wander AG a Swiss company is known for brands like Ovomaltine, Caotina, and Jemalt. In collaboration with ClimatePartner, Wander AG is working on making its packaging 90% carbon neutral by 2025. The companies packaging manufacturers have been identifying their CO2 emissions since 2018 and reducing them wherever possible. They offset the unabated emissions currently via the certified carbon offset project for clean cooking stoves in the Ivory Coast, which Wander AG co-initiated.
Minor Figures makes plant-based, 100% vegan products. Working in collaboration with ClimatePartner they measure the carbon footprint of their employees, operations, and products, throughout their global supply chain and are looking at implementing reduction measures.
The company has also installed refill locations across the UK to cut down on waste by reducing packaging. Minor Figures also compensates for the emissions they generate by supporting Clean Cookstoves projects in Peru and a Biogas project in Vietnam.
fiid the Irish plant-based food company, that has taken their sustainability journey a notch up, by making its entire range of products carbon neutral.
Working with the team at ClimatePartner, fiid calculated the carbon emissions generated by their meals based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. The Dublin based business has offset 188t CO2e for 2020 which is equivalent to the electricity used by 34 homes for an entire year. fiid split their offsets between two Gold Standard projects – Clean Cookstoves in Rwanda and Wind Energy in India.
Naturally Fast-Food brand LEON has become the first to serve a carbon-neutral burger and fries range in its more than 60 locations across the UK. For this, LEON is measuring, reducing, and offsetting the carbon footprint of their burgers and fries, with support from ClimatePartner. They measure the CO2 emissions from the whole supply chain which includes all of LEON’s ingredients, any packaging used and its waste, as well as emissions from preparations in their restaurant kitchens. The resulting carbon footprint is offset with rainforest conservation and afforestation projects in Latin America, as well as a progressive new afforestation project in the UK.
Globally debates and discussions around climate change by world leaders and climate activists have been about reducing carbon emissions to the extent of getting to the net zero code, where in all the carbon emitted into the atmosphere is removed. But is that possible 100%? Reducing carbon emissions is calling for significant changes in the way we humans live and work going further, and not all of them may be equipped with the resources to make that change. Hence while the efforts to achieve a net zero code will be in operation, there is always going to be some amount of carbon that is going to get emitted, and since not emitting any carbon at all is going to be a far-fetched goal, it is ideal to incorporate actions that offset the emissions. Dr Lucas Joppa recommends companies and individuals to look for ways their emissions can be offset and then pay for the same. These small changes are going to be important for getting to the goal of Net Zero and Zero Emissions.
Businesses have got the environment and the climate to where it is today, and it only makes sense and fair for businesses to set it right. For entrepreneurs and for entrepreneurship as well, carbon offsetting creates opportunities directly and indirectly. Launching carbon offset projects is good for the planet and people directly, and when the planet and people are in good shape, indirectly it is good for the entrepreneurs venture as well.