The multi faceted layers that are: offsetting
By definition all carbon offset activities have a positive impact – they reduce or avoid global greenhouse gas emissions.
The benefit of carbon offsets cannot simply be defined. They are a layered concept enabling positive economic development and the necessary transformation of industries, and ultimately countries.
Carbon offsetting leads a path to low-emissions future, paving the way to economic prosperity, opportunity, and reduced inequality.
Without the incentives to traverse a low-emissions future, transformation in scale of an economy and society inherently comes with environmental impacts often including increased emissions, higher pollution levels and increased stresses on global earth systems. It is evident that countries currently undergoing development do not have the opportunity to rely on the latest, high tech, zero-emissions technologies. And to be fair, the developed world did not progress through their development without significant greenhouse gas emissions.
Bravely and simply, defining the world without these necessary transformations is not growth, it is not a future.
With this in mind, we believe it unfitting to ask those countries currently undertaking this revolution to be adequately equipped to reduce and regulate these emissions without aid, incentives, and relevant technological advancement. Indeed, support by developed countries to enable low-emissions development is a requirement of the Paris Agreement.
Enter carbon offsetting. Carbon offset projects enable the transfer of finances and technologies from corporates, Non-Government Organisations, local councils, and others generally situated in developed locations to invest back into countries and communities currently undergoing development. These entities often have far-reaching supply chains and seek to align the extraordinary impacts which offsetting activities bring to communities with these supply chains.
As with all development, including carbon offsetting projects, at times compromises must be made. Today, as we sit in our office in Abbotsford (Melbourne, Australia), we hear the earthmoving machinery improving retaining structures off a nearby building and continuous construction from an apartment building being developed next door. While these developments present us with temporary negative impacts the longer-term gain to society means these impacts fit within our local laws and societies. If any of these impacts were of a more serious nature, we would have grounds to go to local councils and governments and request a change in the activities being undertaken.
Such compromises must be accepted by the broader carbon market as a part of business. Today, we may see a wind turbine in a field and dislike its presence. However, perhaps last year instead of a wind turbine there was a coal fired power plant emitting significant volumes of greenhouse gases and frankly often dangerous levels of air pollutants. Today, the forest we once logged may now be locked up for a Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) project. However, perhaps in 5 years once the forest begins to recover, we may be allowed to sustainably harvest parts of the forest. Alternatively, we may be enabled to retrain as a ranger protecting the forest, or, since the forest is now in a healthy state and the stunning endemic species within the area have begun to return, we may pursue a pathway of environmental tourism instead. These transformations and projects should be analysed as a balance of their positive and negative impacts as well as how the alternative scenario would impact a society.
The carbon offset industry is not without its flaws – no industry is – however investing in high-quality and high integrity offset projects enables positive transformation of communities and societies.