Carbon Offsetting 101

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Currently, next to “Nature Based Solutions” (NBS), “carbon offsetting” is one of the big buzzwords in the environmental community – and there are as many questions around this concept as there is hype. Being that Nature For Justice seeks to address social justice through working with nature, we are very much involved in both NBS and carbon offsetting as we believe these to be exciting solutions that can contribute  – if done right – to restoring the balance we need in order to, amongst other things, help vulnerable communities move toward resilience and help the world meet the Paris Agreement in the coming decades.

With the help of Kat Tancock and her wonderful primer on Carbon Offsetting we hope to give you a quick introduction to the subject.

So what is carbon offsetting exactly and why do we need it?

“Put simply, carbon offsets are a means of balancing out the impact of the greenhouse gases you’re responsible for by creating an equivalent reduction elsewhere. It’s kind of like sleeping in after a late night out, or having a salad for dinner when you did three rounds at the lunch buffet.”

Humans, both as individuals and humans in industry, are living, producing and consuming things at an alarming and ever-increasing rate. This enormous human activity has had the significant side effect of creating too much carbon in the atmosphere and to mitigate that, we can look to increasing carbon storing capacity whilst trying to reduce overall production. The impetus lies both on our individual actions as well as the actions of industry.

So how do we go about offsetting carbon?

To trap and store newly produced and existing carbon we need to protect existing and create new healthy ecosystems. The offshoot to this is that we can protect the fast dwindling biodiversity of animals, insects and bird life who face extinction. Through restoring, rewilding and managing natural spaces such as forests, mangroves, peatlands and the ocean, along with implementing best practices for forms of regenerative agriculture, such as crop rotation and no-tillage farming to improve soil quality, we can have a positive impact on the planet. These are just a few of the ways in which we can support people and projects to encourage our planet’s natural ability to counteract the stressful impacts of modern human activity.

“With offsets, you are funding a specific project that reduces the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

“Carbon offsets do more than just balance out emissions. Buying carbon offsets means supporting initiatives that promote sustainability, the proliferation of green energy instead of fossil fuels, and other positive environmental and social changes.”

What’s the deal with Carbon Credits?

“A carbon credit is a certificate representing one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent that is either prevented from being emitted into the atmosphere (emissions avoidance/reduction) or removed from the atmosphere as the result of a carbon-reduction project.” [1]

These carbon credits are verified by existing standards that rely on a concept that both individuals and businesses can counteract some of their carbon output – from traveling on airplanes to burning plastics – through offsetting our activity through purchasing credits of carbon storing space to counteract our activity.

Carbon trading is another interesting aspect whereby there is voluntary purchasing and trading of carbon credits that has created an entire market based on further assisting in getting funding to those actively involved in carbon offsetting.

Our role in all this:

Currently N4J seeks to help link carbon investors and other companies seeking to purchase offsets with on-the-ground organizations that are working with communities who both need support in restoring and managing their natural spaces (i.e., NBS). We are working across the globe from the Boreal Forests in Canada to the Cloud Forests in Ecuador and sensitive Biosphere Reserves in South Africa to encourage and assist in the trading of carbon credits to support carbon offsetting for the restoration and management of natural spaces that provide an income to those who live on or from the land.

Author

  • As the Creative Advisor and Lead Storyteller, Lisa comes to Nature for Justice passionate about restoring and protecting our natural world and with a wide range of experience in the creative world of storytelling. She has worked in the art industry, publishing, education and literary fields. She has also worked in Communications for an ocean-based NGO and run’s her own small social media campaign for beach clean ups in her city in South Africa.

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