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The Difference Between Reduction and Removal
Although the industry doesn’t define them as such, there are effectively two ways for a project developer to offset carbon emissions on your behalf. The first is by funding projects which stop or reduce emissions that would have been released into the atmosphere without intervention.
In these cases, you would be outsourcing your own carbon footprint reduction by sponsoring others to reduce theirs, such as through conservation or renewable energy projects.
So, for example, you could support projects which bring biogas energy infrastructure to Vietnam, or which rollout clean energy cookstoves to households in India.
The other is to remove historic CO2 emissions already in the atmosphere. Most current methods are natural, like tree planting, reforestation, or growing seaweed forests in areas where they don’t currently grow.
Indeed, it also includes activity to ensure existing carbon sinks continue to operate, such as protecting forests that would otherwise be cut down, or peat bogs from being destroyed.
The CO2 in all these instances is stored as carbon in the biomass, the soil or the seabed. There are also technological and geological solutions for removing CO2, such as Direct Air Capture or Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement.
You may have seen a meme claiming that, under capitalism, a tree has no value until it’s chopped down. REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) technology is countering this misconception by placing a value on forested land, which can be represented by carbon credits.
Surprisingly, there has been a lot of criticism towards carbon credits, with critics claiming it allows the biggest polluters to keep polluting. However, as the crisis becomes increasingly urgent, that criticism is dying down.
Indeed, until only very recently, CO2 removal was seen as inferior or less attractive than reduction and avoidance. But, the paradigm has shifted in recent times as we hit certain planetary tipping points.
It is safe to say that, irrespective of our approach, it is recognised that our driving ambition should be to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees celsius by 2030, and that involved removal, avoidance and reduction in significantly greater scale than we’re currently seeing. Then we can start the job of tidying up, something JustCarbon is resolving now by focusing specifically on CO2 removal.
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