Should You Offset Carbon Emissions?
Carbon offsetting, or carbon credits, is a way to absorb, sequester or reduce carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions. It involves paying other people or organisations to compensate for, or offset, emissions on your behalf.
Carbon offsetting is a tempting solution to the climate crisis. But it’s not quite the fix-all salvation it first appears.
It’s not that carbon offsetting schemes are "bad". But they don’t truly cancel out greenhouse gas emissions on the scale we need them to.
We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not compensate for them.
Fundamentally, carbon offsetting outsources our personal and corporate responsibility for taking climate action. The inconvenient reality is that all of us must change behaviours and make environmentally-focused decisions for survival on this planet.
That being said, it’s not yet possible to eradicate greenhouse emissions from our lifestyles.
So, where you have already reduced CO₂e emissions (say from your diet), offsetting can be a helpful and valuable extra step to minimise the remaining climate impact.
What is carbon offsetting?
Examples of carbon offsetting programs can vary and include planting trees to absorb carbon dioxide, investing in renewable energy projects, or direct air capture technologies, to name a few.
Carbon offsetting is used by businesses as part of sustainability strategies and, more frequently now, by individuals wanting to compensate for their own personal carbon footprint.
What’s the best carbon offsetting scheme?
The short answer is that we don’t know yet.
We’re still learning about different types of carbon offsetting and carbon removal schemes. We really want to find the most efficient solutions to counteract the emissions we’re unable to prevent in our lifestyles, and in the operational running of Floop.
We’re keen to share what we discover. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to learn with us or tell us if you know about an amazing scheme!
What about tree planting for carbon offsetting?
Tree planting schemes are gaining popularity for carbon offsetting. They are a comparatively affordable option and can be implemented around the world.
Planting trees is beneficial and necessary. Our forests are home to diverse species. They filter and clean the air we breathe. Trees regulate local and global climate. It’s important that we conserve and reforest where possible.
But there are some limitations and considerations to tree planting schemes when it comes to “fixing” our environmental crisis:
Other greenhouse gases. Tree planting schemes absorb CO₂ but don’t compensate for other greenhouse gases that cause global warming. More than a quarter (25.6%) of CO₂e emissions come from methane, nitrous oxide and F-gases, which trees cannot offset.
Time. Trees take 10-20 years to mature and don’t offer immediate offsetting benefits. If we’re to keep global warming below 1.5°c, we need immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in 2022 and beyond.
Monoculture. The same species of tree are often planted as part of carbon credit schemes. Where there is a focus on the number of trees rather than diversity, monoculture can cause other issues related to biodiversity, soil quality, and desertification. Tree offsets may go a way to prevent climate-related issues by absorbing CO₂, but can trigger other environmental.
Social issues. Changes in land use affect the planet and people. Where landowners start tree planting projects without consulting local communities, people can become displaced, unemployed, or prevented from accessing resources like food and water. This is more likely to happen in communities in the developing world, who face the highest risks associated with climate change too.
Now, we’re not here to vilify tree planting schemes. There are some truly excellent projects happening around the world.
But we want to highlight some considerations our team is making when it comes to the future of our planet and food security.
Right now, our priority is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help others to slash their climate impact ahead of carbon offsetting.
How can I reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
There are lots of ways you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and many don’t involve extra costs.
Some ideas include:
Walking or cycling and using public transport
Switching to a renewable energy provider
Turning down your thermostat
Buying second-hand repurposing items
Changing your food habits
With one-third of greenhouse gas emissions coming from our global food systems and ⅕ of your personal carbon footprint coming from your diet, choosing climate-friendly food every day is a powerful way to live sustainably.