Are carbon offsets effective? Critics of the carbon offsets market claim carbon offsetting projects don’t actually reduce carbon dioxide emissions or that offsetting projects aren’t legitimate.
We have a different view — as experts who partner with numerous carbon offsetting projects worldwide, we know very well that if we are going to achieve net-zero carbon emissions outlined by the Paris Agreement by 2050, carbon offsetting plays a vital role.
And, we’re not the only ones who think so! The 6th annual Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report reinforces that all solutions contributing to removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere are essential to achieve net zero. That means, reducing emissions through more sustainable business and personal practices, moving to renewable energy, AND investing in carbon removal initiatives like carbon offsetting are all needed for net zero.
The fact is, we’re inching ever closer to an irreparable climate catastrophe. For example, 2015 to 2021 were the seven warmest years ever recorded. So, if you’re wondering why carbon offsetting is important, it’s because it’s one of the primary tactics at our disposal to fight climate change and ensure a habitable planet for all.
The Importance of Carbon Offsets For The Environment
Do carbon offsets help the environment? They absolutely do. Carbon offset projects are created to benefit the environment and people who live there; let’s examine how they do it.
Carbon Offsets Explained
Companies and individuals like you reduce can their carbon footprint with carbon offsets. The term refers to projects that absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, effectively “offsetting” the emissions caused elsewhere.
You might ask, are carbon offsets effective? Despite the criticisms against carbon offsetting, research tells a different story. For example, Verra’s research showed, by the end of 2019, the voluntary carbon offset market alone had removed over 608 million tons of emissions. That’s like taking 131 million cars off the road for a year. Sounds pretty effective to us!
Not just anything qualifies to be a carbon offset, either. The projects must be verified by an independent organization that validates their environmental claims and awards a certification like the Verified Carbon Standard or Gold Standard.
One of the ways carbon offsets benefit the environment is by incentivizing businesses to reduce their emissions to avoid needing to buy carbon credits… or save some to sell! It’s a fascinating topic, and we can help you better understand how carbon offsets work.
Carbon offsetting projects also encourage sustainable agricultural practices as farmers can adopt these methods and then sell the carbon credits they produce! Farmers become verified by a third-party organization and — boom— a brand new income stream trading carbon credits.
It’s not only farmers that can benefit economically from carbon offsetting either. Manufacturers, architects, and people in general! By making carbon emissions a commodity, we incentivize sustainable technological change across the board.
There’s a lot of diversity in the types of carbon offset projects available to support. Many focus on reforestation, agriculture, and marine ecosystems. As countries increase their production and use of renewable energy, carbon offsets are essential to limiting global warming to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels. And with that, reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030 and eliminating 95% of current emissions to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050.
Carbon Offsets Helps Businesses Meet Climate Goals
We like the UNFCCC’s carbon offsetting definition as a way for companies and people to compensate for the carbon emissions they can’t avoid making (yet) by supporting projects that reduce/capture/avoid emissions elsewhere.
Right now, some carbon emissions are inevitable. Still, if businesses can continue operationalizing lower emissions practices and rely on verified carbon offset projects, they’ll stay ahead of the curve toward net zero.
It’s true that aggressive action is needed to reduce emissions by 95% over the next 27 years, and many businesses will have to alter how they operate fundamentally. But as they plan for net zero, carbon offsetting will give them additional ways to work toward sustainability and their environment, social, and governance (ESG) goals.
Now, businesses should discuss carbon offsetting pros and cons. Does it make sense to focus on reaching net-zero emissions? Or to rely on the carbon offsets market when emissions are over the allotted amount? How do carbon offsets fit into the post-2050 business landscape? Business leaders have questions to answer, and we can help!
Benefits of Carbon Offsetting For The Economy
Do carbon offsets help the economy? Absolutely!
Carbon offset projects create carbon credits, which are a tradable commodity. There are literal economies set up around creating and selling carbon emissions reductions! Isn’t that cool?
The demand for these credits is massive; in 2021, the voluntary carbon market was worth about $20 billion and is expected to increase to up to $40 billion in value by 2030. This massive demand growth is partly due to increasing net-zero corporate commitments.
Existing entrepreneurs can benefit by becoming a verified carbon offset project. Take farmers, for example; they have the land and stewardship expertise to run a carbon offset project successfully. As a bonus, these projects increase the long-term viability of local farms, ensuring farmers have produce to sell in the community for a very long time.
How is carbon offsetting effective at helping low- and lower-middle-income (commonly referred to as underdeveloped) countries develop? Good question! Since many offsetting projects are in underdeveloped communities, they empower the local community members with a stable and sustainable income.
That also means countries get the investment needed to accelerate their development — and without the ecological damage, industrialization caused in many economically advanced nations. It’s a win-win!
How You Can Contribute To Projects That Help The Environment
This article examined how businesses and governments use carbon-offsetting projects to benefit the environment and the economy. But they’re not the only ones that can invest in carbon offsetting!
Climate-conscious individuals like you can also support carbon offset projects and reduce global carbon emissions. Of course, you can help — you live on the planet too!
First, if you have the capital, you can invest and directly fund eco-friendly projects or add projects to your investment portfolio using organizations like Fossil Free Fund. And as a consumer, you can focus your buying power on companies that invest in renewable energy, and carbon farming or demonstrate their commitment to net zero in other ways.
Help Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Carbon offsetting is a great solution when we need to reduce our carbon footprint after undertaking some emissions-intensive activities like flying on an airline or going on a road trip. Buy a new car recently? That’s a GHG bill to pay!
Don’t stress; EcoCart can help! Since you know carbon offsetting is vital; you can calculate your personal carbon footprint and work toward your personal net zero. Small, everyday actions like shopping with carbon-neutral companies, buying local and/or farmers’ market produce, and repairing or reselling clothing are all steps toward a de-carbonized future.
Some of us can undertake significant investments in the planet, like installing solar panels on our homes, working from home, or starting a carbon offset project of our own. We can do so many big or small things to have an impact.
While critics accuse carbon offsetting of masking harmful environmental practices, the reality is that offset projects and the increased use of renewable energy benefit the environment. And as carbon offset projects gain more attention, it sheds light on the environmental impact of business, travel, shopping, and the many activities creating carbon emissions.
So, are carbon offsets effective? For their benefit to the economy, the environment, and the companies and individuals reducing their carbon footprint, we say yes!