Is carbon offsetting the climate silver bullet we’ve all been waiting for? - Blog

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Friday 11th June 2021

Carbon offsetting allows businesses to invest in environmental projects around the globe to balance out their own carbon footprint. Some businesses choose to offset their entire carbon footprint, whilst others choose to offset specific activities or parts of their business. There are many schemes under this umbrella term, with different levels of effectiveness. Let’s find out a bit more about them… 

1. Carbon offsetting 


Put simply, carbon offsets are when the same amount of carbon produced by a company is avoided somewhere else. There are several different types of schemes, such as carbon credits which can be traded, rehabilitation projects and energy-based schemes. Many of these avoid carbon, but do not actively remove carbon from the atmosphere.  

2. Carbon offsetting – removal 


Carbon removal schemes are considered the best type of carbon offsetting scheme. Instead of simply avoiding carbon, they actively remove it from the atmosphere. For example, tree planting – as trees capture carbon.   

Offsetting vs reduction
 

Carbon offsetting differs from carbon reduction, the first step in the climate crisis hierarchy, which is the avoidance of releasing emissions in the first place. 

A controversial topic, carbon offsetting schemes have come under scrutiny in recent years over their effectiveness and counter-productivity in the fight against the climate crisis.  

Let’s take a look at both sides of the story…

Cons

  • There are lots of offsetting companies that are not regulated/audited so the offsetting you pay for may not happen. This may be due to inaccurate calculation of carbon emissions, or a lack of monitoring. 
  • There may not be a contingency plan when it comes to the follow up care of the trees that were planted through these projects. A few years later, the trees may have died from disease, fire or deliberate deforestation.  
  • There is a debate that some of these projects would have gone ahead without the additional funding. This begs the questions whether you’re actually paying for extra carbon to be removed. 
  • Some consider offsetting counterproductive, as it allows companies to claim carbon neutrality without actively reducing their emissions.

Pros

On the flip side, there are many benefits of businesses offsetting their carbon emissions and it can be a really positive way to manage your company’s emissions. 

  • It’s a vital tool that allows businesses to achieve their net zero targets. By allowing businesses to offset their left-over carbon, they can claim that they are carbon neutral/net zero.  
  • There are ISO standards (ISO 14064) for carbon offsetting, which provides regulation and assurance that the scheme meets certain environmental criteria. You should only choose schemes that comply with this standard. 
  • Offsetting carbon helps to tackle climate change. Offsetting projects, such as tree planting, result in the absorption of greenhouse gases and therefore positively help to solve the climate crisis.  
  • The money paid by companies to these schemes goes into funding projects that may never have received funding otherwise and many of them also benefit society and the local community.

    So.. in answer to our original question, is carbon offsetting the climate silver bullet we’ve all been waiting for?  

    In short, no.  

    It can be an extremely useful tool on your net zero journey, but there is a time and a place for it. This is usually at the end of a net zero journey, after a reduction in carbon emissions has taken place. They should not be used as a substitute for reducing your carbon footprint. 

    Despite some reservations, we believe that with careful research and choosing a legitimate scheme, you can mitigate any concerns.

    Introducing our latest #SustainABLE Pathway commitment

    We’d now like to introduce our latest commitment in our SustainABLE Pathway.  

    To provide a ‘credible offset-reduction programme for clients who wish to offset their carbon emissions from both collection and/or end-of-life material processing’.

    Working with our longstanding charity partner, Trees for Cities, we will provide you with the opportunity to offset the emissions associated with your collections and end-of-life material processing. Essentially, you’ll be able to claim that your recycling and waste collections are net zero.

    Trees for Cities are a UK charity working at a national and international scale to improve lives by planting trees in cities. Their offset scheme is ISO 14064 accredited, actively removes CO2 from the atmosphere. 

    How does the offset scheme work? 

    • We’ll provide a breakdown of the emissions associated with waste and recycling collections and end-of-life material processing and tell you how much this will cost to offset 
    • You’ll receive a certificate from Trees for Cities, showing the amount of carbon you have offset 
    • Now your recycling and waste collections can be considered net zero! 

    So, what are you waiting for? Show your commitment to sustainability and start offsetting your recycling scheme with us!  

    To find out more about our newly launched offset scheme, please contact us on 020 7407 9100 or email us on helpdesk@paper-round.co.uk. 

    Lucy Steward

    Certifications and Memberships