Why a robust Net Zero strategy includes offsetting today’s emissions, through high quality carbon avoidance projects.

Written by Tom Morton,  Director of Special Projects Kenya, ClimateCare.

As we head towards COP26 later this year, it’s fantastic to see that thousands of companies around the world have signed up to go Net Zero, with more committing to do so every day. At ClimateCare, we are delighted to be helping many of these pioneering organisations take concrete steps towards  their Net Zero target.

But, while intent and ambition to go Net Zero are important, it is also essential that companies take full responsibility for the emissions they are producing today. After all, it’s today’s emissions that are causing tomorrow’s climate change.

We have to reduce, as well as remove carbon emissions.

We must not forget that we are facing a climate emergency. We need to do everything within our power to decarbonise and reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible.

In recent years, carbon removal projects (those that remove carbon directly from the atmosphere) have become increasingly sought-after by companies with Net Zero targets. But while carbon removals will play a role in mitigating climate change, they are not a standalone solution.

As experienced project developers ourselves, we know that carbon removal projects can be difficult to implement, have an element of risk and will take several years to yield results. Additionally, without considerable and immediate carbon emission reductions, the demand for carbon removal projects may exceed our ability to deliver them. Yes, we need to prepare more of them now in order to neutralise residual emissions in the future, but we cannot afford to take our focus away from the urgent objective of avoiding emissions today. We desperately need to scale carbon avoidance projects now.

Looking at it another way – it makes no sense to plant new forests, whilst standing back to watch existing rainforests destroyed. We need to both protect existing carbon sinks and create new ones.

So, what should companies be doing?

There are thousands of effective projects around the world with immediate potential to reduce or avoid billions of tonnes of carbon emissions. From cleaner cooking technology – which alone has the potential to reduce up to 1 billion tonnes of CO2 each year – to rainforest protection and renewable energy provision.

Clean cookstoves have the potential to reduce 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions each year

Supporting these projects through carbon offsetting is a means to take responsibility for your current carbon emissions, and an important part of any robust climate strategy.

Offsetting is not a substitute for emissions reductions in your own organisation. But, it is a way to compensate for remaining emissions, while you take steps to reduce them, in line with a Science Based Target.

Through the voluntary carbon market, there are already robust systems in place to ensure the carbon reductions you fund to offset your emissions are real, additional, permanent, unique and independently verified.

The role of offsetting today’s emissions as you journey to Net Zero has been positively acknowledged by respected environmental NGOs (CDP, WWF, WRI), with The Science-Based Target initiative (SBTi) describing offsetting as playing “a critical role in accelerating the transition to Net Zero emissions at the global level” (SBTi, 2020, Foundations For Net Zero).

Not only does it deliver immediate climate impact, but the projects you support also accelerate progress towards the UN Global Goals – creating a wide range of positive impacts for local communities, economies, health and nature. Research conducted by Imperial College London shows that for every tonne of CO2 offset, $664 of value is created.

Best practice is to combine this immediate action, with a longer-term carbon removal plan.

We help leading corporates take immediate action to compensate for current emissions and go Carbon Neutral. At the same time, we work with them to implement a robust plan to secure their future Net Zero position – helping them understand their carbon removal requirements and creating a putting in place strategies to meet them through a combination of forward contracts and bespoke new project development. In this way, we help them deliver for the climate today whilst managing future supply and price risk.

You don’t want to be a laggard in this race. As competition for carbon credits grows and prices rise, now is the time for your company take the lead – tackling climate change today and securing its future Net Zero position.

About the author

Tom Morton is the Director of Special Projects Kenya, ClimateCare. Tom oversees the direction and delivery of the ClimateCare team in Nairobi, Kenya, supporting this specialist team to deliver climate and development outcomes on the ground. He is also one of the world’s leading experts in clean cooking and helped create the first opportunities to support cookstove projects through climate finance. He now advises ClimateCare on project development, exploring how to channel finance to emissions reduction projects worldwide.