on Tuesday January 3, 2023

Updates on Climate Action and a Decarbonization Primer

It can’t be denied that our planet is suffering from the compounding impact of human-caused ills. Still, the human species is capable of awe-inspiring works of compassion, imagination and creation. Collective action toward a healthier society and planet is taking place in every part of the world, and there are so many ways for each of us to join in this work. In this article, we summarize climate-related news and global sustainability initiatives in 2022. We also share interesting learnings from our marketing projects for carbon offsetting companies.

Our goal is that climate solution companies are better equipped, are more successful, and, as a result, their climate solutions are applied by wider audiences and at a larger scale, replacing polluting alternatives and technologies.

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.”

John F. Kennedy

Global Climate Initiatives

In March 2022, 175 nations signed a UN resolution to end plastic pollution by 2024. That is only a little over a year from now, so there is A LOT of work to do. “By 2050, greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic production, use and disposal, would account for 15% of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (34.7°F) in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change.”

In August 2022, the US signed a bill for its largest investment to date toward addressing climate change. $369 billion is earmarked for cleaner energy infrastructure

Progressive Marketing to Help Solve the Climate Crisis

For the second year in a row, Orange Bird was invited by the International Chamber of Commerce to host a session at the “Climate Action is Everyone’s Business” forum.

For 2022, our session was a panel discussion on the topic of “Progressive marketing that helps solve the climate crisis instead of stimulating it.” Read a recap of our discussion with the Head of Sustainability at the ICC and business leaders from five climate action companies or watch the session recording.

Would you like to collaborate on a sustainability project or event? We’d love to share ideas or chat about how we can work together for a healthier planet and society, send us a message.

An Intro to Decarbonization and Carbon Markets

As a result of our work with carbon offset project developers this year, Orange Bird studied the voluntary carbon market and the compliance carbon market to understand what is important to those audiences who want to purchase voluntary offsets as well as those who are required by regulation to offset their emissions. We gained an appreciation of the intricacies involved in the processes of verifying, validating, and retiring credits and how these factors can help potential buyers assess the quality and impact of their carbon offset investment. 

Carbon Removal vs. Carbon Reduction

A wide-reaching and deep-impact approach to decarbonization is necessary to hold warming under 1.5C. Both carbon removals and carbon reductions are necessary, and each can be stimulated by carbon offset projects. 

Carbon removal, as the name suggests, means CO2 is actually removed from the atmosphere. Carbon removal projects include nature-based solutions where carbon is sequestered, often in forests, wetlands, or soil projects. For example, Native (a client for which Orange Bird is helping to refresh their website) has developed a project that increases carbon sequestration in the soil through regenerative grazing practices which encourage growth of healthy native grasses that naturally capture carbon. Other carbon removal projects use a mechanical approach, where carbon is physically removed using direct capture technologies. 

Carbon reduction (or carbon avoidance) means carbon dioxide gas or the equivalent (tCO2e) is prevented from being emitted through the implementation of a different process. In an example carbon avoidance project, family farms in Uganda are provided with biodigesters which convert organic farm waste into fuel for cooking and heating. Without the biodigesters, methane gas is emitted to the atmosphere from the decomposing waste, and carbon dioxide is produced from burning firewood for fuel. By using the biodigesters, the methane is captured and used as fuel, eliminating or reducing the need to burn additional firewood. 

Decarbonization Illustration, Carbon Reduction and Carbon Removal | Orange Bird

The State of Carbon Markets

The carbon market includes the compliance carbon market and the voluntary carbon market.

Under the compliance carbon market, governing bodies regulate the amount of emissions that are produced by using an emissions trading system (or ETS). Entities are allotted a certain number of carbon credits. Each carbon credit is like a pass that allows its owner to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide gas or its equivalent. Entities that produce fewer emissions than their allotted number can trade their credits. Entities that produce more emissions than they have been allotted must buy credits to offset the overage. These credits can be traded from another organization who has a surplus, or in some cases, they can be purchased as carbon offset credits from the regulated carbon market. The World Bank has compiled a map of nations that use emissions trading systems or carbon taxes to regulate emissions.

In the voluntary carbon market, carbon offsets are bought and sold on a voluntary basis. Companies that buy carbon offsets can invest in carbon offset projects such as renewable energy, nature-based carbon sequestration projects, and other activities that reduce the net amount of emissions to the earth’s atmosphere. These offsets can help companies meet their carbon neutral or climate positive pledges and give credibility to their sustainability claims. Indeed, more than 450 sustainability badges and seals have been developed by non-profit and for-profit organizations alike to help companies market their sustainability efforts to climate-concerned audiences.

Because voluntary carbon offsets are not regulated in the same way as compliance carbon credits, it’s important for buyers of voluntary carbon offsets to learn which offsets or projects will have the most positive impact on the climate and for what cost. The carbon market is still relatively new, and pricing strategies and quality standards are evolving. Climate action projects can be evaluated according to several criteria for offset quality and impact, a few of which are outlined below.

  • Additionality. A project is “additional” if the emissions reduction benefits would not occur without investment/project. A project would not be additional, for example, if offsets were to be sold for a forest which was already guaranteed to be protected without the funding requirement of the offsets.
    Learn before you buy: How exactly is the money from the carbon offset sales used?

  • Permanence. Emissions reductions generated from the project should last for the entire lifespan of the project. For example, a tree-planting project should guarantee the trees will not be cut down prematurely.
    Learn before you buy: What is the lifespan of the project?

  • Verification. The project should be verified and validated to a recognized standard by a credible 3rd party. Recognized verification standards include Gold Standard, Plan Vivo, and Voluntary Carbon Standard and others.
    Learn before you buy: To what standard is the project verified?

  • Unique Ownership. Sellers of carbon credits should follow established processes to protect from “double-counting” a credit by more than purchaser.
    Learn before you buy: How is ownership of the offset proven?

  • Leakage. The project should not cause emissions elsewhere.
    Learn before you buy: How are emissions from the project’s development and ongoing implementation calculated?

  • Co-benefits. The project should provide additional social, environmental, or other benefits in addition to GHG emissions reductions.
    Learn before you buy: How are local ecosystems and communities impacted by the project?

The Methodology for Assessing the Quality of Carbon Credits gives more information about this as well as some helpful definitions.

With climate target deadlines rapidly approaching, there is an increased interest from governments, companies and consumers in decarbonization strategies, although many would say much more needs to be done. We also agree that the main focus should be on re-engineering various manufacturing and logistics processes to stop burning fossil fuels and to prevent greenhouse gasses from being emitted. Still, in many industries engineering advances are required to make it possible (for example, in aviation, electrical and solar-powered engines are being tested but have not yet been implemented in long-range jets). That is why, in mid-term,  the carbon offset market is poised for dramatic growth. For readers who want to learn more, here are some helpful resources about carbon credits and offsets.

Carbon Offset Basics

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