No doubt you’ve heard about carbon offsets. They’re the talk of corporate policy, governmental summits and, increasingly, everyday conversation. With deforestation a major cause of CO2 emissions, forest carbon is an increasingly vital element of offset programs. But how much do you really know about them? Here is a guide to how they work.
What is a forest carbon offset?
A forest carbon offset
is a financial instrument that represents a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. One carbon offset represents one less metric ton of greenhouse gases that would have been released into the atmosphere.
By purchasing carbon offsets, companies invest in projects that reduce carbon dioxide emissions in one location to compensate for their own emissions in another. Since atmospheric carbon is a global phenomenon, reducing carbon emissions anywhere in the world creates the same climate benefit for the planet.
VISUAL AID: Check out the role forests can play in climate change (or click to enlarge the image).
Forest carbon projects mitigate the effects of climate change by preventing greenhouse gas emissions associated with forest loss and by increasing carbon sequestration through growing forests.
Why are they important?
The burning and clearing of forests is a major – though often overlooked – source of greenhouse gas emissions. With 19 million tons of CO2
entering the atmosphere each day, deforestation
is responsible for about 16 percent of all the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – more than all the cars, trucks, boats, planes and trains combined.
Forest protection and reforestation tackle one of the largest sources of emissions and can play an important role in stabilizing the climate. These projects can also provide tangible benefits to local communities and protect habitat for threatened species in some of the world’s most diverse and impoverished places.
Who purchases forest-based carbon offsets, and why?
While it’s essential we reduce our energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, carbon offsets can be an important means to tackle climate change
drivers that would otherwise be out of reach.
More and more companies are working to voluntarily reduce their carbon footprint through internal emissions reductions supplemented with offset purchases because they believe it’s the right thing to do. In addition, many feel it’s a move that defines leadership and delivers a competitive benefit in their marketplace, and can provide new ways of engaging their customers and suppliers. In short – it makes business sense.
Individuals and families can purchase offsets, too. Use our Carbon Footprint Calculator to determine your family’s total carbon footprint, and purchase offsets to become “carbon neutral.” You can also calculate the offsets needed to make a family trip or event carbon neutral, or even give them as a gift.
TAKE ACTION: Discover simple steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint.
What is Conservation International doing in this area?
As a leader in the design of high-quality forest protection and restoration projects, CI is developing Conservation Carbon projects
that span the globe. Our hope is that these innovative projects will be a model for broader efforts to significantly curb climate change and protect the biological diversity on which life depends, while simultaneously improving the economic well-being
of forest-dependent communities.
All CI carbon forestry projects are designed using best practice standards to address these key issues:
Permanence – ensuring that the carbon benefits are not lost in the future.
Additionality – demonstrating that the benefits would not have occurred without the offset project.
Leakage - minimizing unintended increases in carbon emissions outside the project boundary.
Measurement & Monitoring –independently quantifying the carbon benefits.
Multiple Benefits – generating additional benefits to biodiversity and local communities.
In addition, CI has worked to establish the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA). This partnership among 13 of the world’s leading companies and NGOs seeks to leverage the carbon market to foster development of forest protection and restoration projects around the world that deliver significant climate, local community and biodiversity benefits.
What parts of the world benefit from CI’s forest carbon offset programs?
Working in close partnership with government, non-profit, and private-sector leaders, CI is at the forefront of many important forest carbon projects. A recent partnership between CI and Dell to preserve the Fandriana-Vondrozo Forest Corridor, which stretches along Madagascar’s eastern escarpment, is a prime example. This 240,000 hectare (about 926 square miles) area, one of the largest and most varied of Madagascar’s planned protected areas, will help ensure the survival of many of Madagascar’s endemic threatened species.
Other vital CI-led projects include the Mantadia Forest Conservation Project in Madagascar, the Tenchong Forest Restoration Project in China, and the Chocó-Manabi Corridor Project in Ecuador. Other CI carbon projects are getting under way in the Philippines, Mexico, Peru, Indonesia and Brazil, and other locations throughout the world.
LEARN MORE: Find out what areas are most at risk and what CI is doing to help.
How do you verify program effectiveness?
To ensure the benefits are fully realized, CI projects are designed in accordance with the Climate, Community & Biodiversity (CCB) Standards. These voluntary standards cover 23 criteria, and help project developers design land management projects that simultaneously minimize the risk of climate change, conserve biodiversity
and contribute to sustainable development.
The CCB standards:
- Identify high-quality projects that will generate credible and robust carbon offsets, while supporting local communities and conserving biodiversity
- Mitigate project risk and maximize value for investors
- Help developers design good projects and secure additional funding sources
- Enable governments and land-use planners to prioritize activities across the landscape to optimize multiple benefits.
CI has also played a leading role in the development of the Voluntary Carbon Standard, which is emerging as the world’s preeminent carbon accounting standard for the voluntary market. This standard provides assurance to the marketplace and enables forest restoration and conservation projects to generate high-quality, permanent, tradable carbon credits that have been independently verified and registered.
As global warming moves increasingly to the forefront of political debate and dinner-table discussion, CI is working to help mitigate one of the major causes – the destruction of the earth’s tropical forests. Through supporting our innovative forestry carbon offset projects, together we can help ensure a thriving future for the world’s forests and all the animals and human communities that depend upon them.
READ MORE: Protecting Forests: A Solution to Climate Change