Regenerating native forests have often been underused in the fight against climate change, but they hold the potential to suck up massive amounts of carbon. CarbonCrop co-founder, Nick Butcher, joined B.Linc Vibe on the 18th July 2023 for this webinar exploring what carbon removals really mean to the ag industry and what opportunities are available.
Climate change is an urgent issue that demands immediate action. As the quest for net-zero emissions intensifies, understanding the intricacies of carbon removals and offsets becomes increasingly crucial. This blog post aims to distil the essence of these complexities, offering actionable insights for effectively combating climate change.
Carbon Removals Over Offsets?
The need to shift focus from merely offsetting emissions to actively removing carbon from the atmosphere is one of the main factors in achieving net zero.
While offsetting emissions has been the traditional approach, it's becoming increasingly clear that this method is insufficient for the challenges we face. Offsetting typically involves investing in projects that reduce or avoid emissions elsewhere, such as renewable energy projects or reforestation efforts. While these are valuable initiatives, they don't directly remove existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Carbon removals are becoming an increasingly scarce commodity. This scarcity arises from several factors, including the technological challenges associated with these methods, the land and resources they require, and the need for rigorous verification processes to ensure their effectiveness. As demand for these projects grows, the competition for high-quality, verifiable carbon removals will become increasingly in demand.
Ideally, the only form of offset should be a removal offset—capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, rather than just preventing its release. This aligns more closely with the ultimate goal of actively reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Quality Matters in Offsets
The carbon offset market is a complex landscape, filled with a variety of projects that promise to neutralise emissions. However, not all offsets are created equal. The term "junk offsets" is often used to describe projects that may not have a meaningful impact on reducing global carbon levels and could even worsen the problem.These projects may claim to reduce emissions but often lack the rigorous monitoring and verification processes needed to confirm their effectiveness.
Given the complexities and potential pitfalls in the carbon offset market, discernment becomes crucial. It's not enough to simply purchase offsets to meet corporate sustainability goals or personal ethical standards. The offsets chosen must stand up to scrutiny, offering transparency, verifiability, and above all, a real impact on reducing atmospheric carbon levels.
The Role of Compliance Carbon Markets
Compliance carbon markets are a critical tool in the global fight against climate change. Operated under governmental or regulatory frameworks, these markets are designed to enforce emission reduction targets. This regulatory framework ensures that participants are held to stringent standards, making the credits traded in these markets more reliable. However, this can be a double-edged sword. Regulatory complexities can sometimes create barriers to entry and limit innovation.
As the urgency to address climate change intensifies, compliance carbon markets are poised to play an increasingly significant role. Understanding the intricacies of compliance carbon markets is not just for policy experts; it's essential for anyone committed to combating climate change.
The Importance of Monitoring and Verification
Monitoring and verification are essential for the success of any carbon removal or offset project. Without verified data, it's challenging to assess the real-world impact of a project, and the credibility and effectiveness of projects come into question.
The "Field Scan" app simplifies the monitoring and verification process by allowing for authenticated photo evidence, complete with geolocation and timestamp details, to validate various activities. For example, in the case of pest control activities that can significantly affect carbon sequestration rates in forests, "Field Scan" provides a reliable way to document the work done. The app empowers not just project developers or landholders, but also the general public, to collect verifiable data.This democratisation of data collection is pivotal because it broadens the base of verifiable information, making the entire carbon offset and removal ecosystem more transparent and accountable.
The data collected through "Field Scan" doesn't just serve verification purposes; it also feeds into the models used to measure the effectiveness of various carbon removal strategies. Accurate, real-time data can help refine these models, making them more reliable and, in turn, making future projects more effective. This iterative process, fuelled by verified data, can significantly accelerate progress in the field of carbon removal and offsetting. Ultimately, robust monitoring and verification practices build trust.
Fostering Innovation in Carbon Removal
Innovation is crucial in the field of carbon removal. However, there’s a tension between the need to balance innovation with the standards and verification processes that ensure project effectiveness and credibility. While standards and verification are important, Strict guidelines and criteria can make it difficult for new, experimental projects to gain traction or receive funding. This creates a paradox where the very mechanisms designed to ensure project effectiveness can inadvertently stifle the innovative ideas that could ultimately change the field.
Biochar serves as a prime example of this tension. The process involves converting organic matter, such as agricultural waste, into a stable form of carbon that can be stored in the soil. While the science behind biochar is promising, it often doesn't fit neatly into existing verification frameworks. This can make it challenging to secure funding or achieve certification for biochar projects, despite their potential for significant carbon sequestration.
The challenge is to find a balance between innovation and certainty. Encouraging projects that are on the cutting edge, even if they don't fit neatly into existing frameworks, is essential. Disincentivizing innovation too strongly could stifle progress, leaving us stuck with the inadequate status quo. To foster innovation, ideally we’d have an ecosystem that encourages experimentation and rewards creative solutions. This could involve creating special funding streams for experimental projects, developing 'sandbox' environments where new techniques can be tested without immediate pressure for verification, or establishing partnerships between researchers, policymakers, and industry leaders to collaboratively explore new avenues for carbon removal.
Understanding the complexities of carbon removals and offsets is not just beneficial but essential for achieving net-zero goals. From focusing on quality over quantity in carbon offsets to fostering innovation in the field, the insights offered are both enlightening and actionable.
CarbonCrop is committed to providing solutions that help you achieve your carbon neutrality goals effectively and responsibly. Check out our website for more information on how we can help you tell your net zero story with confidence.
Note: This blog post provides a high-level summary, for a more in-depth understanding of these crucial issues, we highly recommend watching the full webinar. Equip yourself with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions in your journey towards carbon neutrality.