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Carbon offsetting is more important than ever: here’s what we’re doing about it

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Delta Capita is delighted to announce our partnership with Planetly, a technology company that is helping us measure, analyse and reduce our carbon footprint.

We commit to responsible business practices that benefit our people, clients, communities, and planet. As part of this, we at Delta Capita believe it is crucial to manage our CO2 emissions through carbon offsetting.

The climate emergency is more pressing than ever with the UN calling the 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report a ‘code red for humanity’ with ‘deafening alarm bells’. Looking for ways to slow climate change by moving to a low carbon world is urgent.

What is carbon offsetting?

With Earth Day having just passed, now is a good time to reflect on the importance of carbon offsetting and how it works.

Carbon offsetting counters CO2 emissions created by a given activity by calculating the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and reducing it by the same amount elsewhere. If this reduction equals the total amount of carbon released, the activity is deemed carbon neutral.

Similar offset schemes have solved other environmental problems in the past, such as the nitrogen oxide air pollution that causes acid rain. With nitrogen oxide schemes, the offsetting must occur where the pollution takes place. But carbon reduction schemes can take place anywhere.

This is because greenhouse gases are so widespread in the Earth’s atmosphere, the climate benefits from CO2 reduction regardless of where the pollution originates. This is why many projects are based in developing countries where offsetting may be cheaper and easier to execute but is still effective.

Carbon offsetting in practice

Other examples of carbon offsetting include funding projects in clean energy technologies or energy-efficiency; and preventing CO2 from entering the atmosphere via reforestation. Carbon offsets can be bought, sold, or even traded as part of the carbon market, and fall under two categories:

Compliance

Compliance offsets are used to help meet legally binding carbon scheme caps such as in the UN’s Kyoto Protocol; and the EU Emissions Trading System, the world’s largest carbon market.

Voluntary

Individuals and organisations may also voluntarily buy carbon offsets to compensate for their emissions. An example of this is Carbon Offsetting Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), which went live in 2021. The scheme seeks to offset 2.6 billion metric tons of carbon in the next 14 years.
Voluntary offsetting has been criticised as it is largely unregulated. However, several international standards have been developed and can now be used to assess the quality of an offset. These include the Gold Standard and the Voluntary Carbon Standard.

Ensuring effectiveness

Individuals and organisations must consider four factors to ensure the schemes they take part in are effective:

Permanence – will the carbon they are offsetting stay out of the atmosphere?
Double-counting – is the carbon reduction bought by only one individual or organisation. Or is it added to multiple buyers’ carbon balance sheets?
Additionality – would this reduction have happened anyway? For example, improving energy efficiency infrastructure might happen anyway due to an increase in demand for electricity.
Leakage – is the offsetting scheme causing damage elsewhere? For example, without the right safeguards, protecting some areas of forest increases the risk of deforestation in others.

What can we do?

Carbon offsetting is available to governments, organisations, and individuals alike. As individuals, we can use organisations such as Carbon Neutral Britain to offset the carbon produced in our daily activities. Without such schemes it is extremely hard to live a carbon neutral lifestyle in modern society.

As organisations, we can work with solution providers to understand our carbon impacts and work to reduce them.

To combat the climate crisis, we will need to do more than implementing carbon offsetting schemes. We need to invest in innovation too.

But, as the IPCC’s report shows, long-term removal of CO2 from the atmosphere must be part of the solution if we are to reach our collective goal of a climate-neutral world by 2050.

We are all responsible for tackling climate change, conserving our planet, and inspiring our networks and contacts to do the same. We look forward to continuing our work with Planetly and integrating our offsetting goals into our wider development and long-term strategy.

By Toni Storie, senior consultant, Delta Capita