How much does the carbon offsetting cost?
To understand the following, it’s necessary to identify units of measure. Here, it will be about “carbon credits”. A unity of measure created in the context of the protocol of Kyoto in 1997.
The protocol of Kyoto constrains the signatory countries to limit the greenhouse gas emissions, 6 precisely and the carbon dioxide. Carbon credits market is also called “CO2 quotas” and they are then transformed into money. Finally, a carbon credit is equal to a ton of CO2. It’s thus, always the ton of CO2 that is bought.
In order to give you some numbers, here’s an example of prices at two different dates to taking into account the growing evolution of price:
- 19 dec 2013: 1.90€
- 21 jan 2019: 24€
- 3 dec 2021: 80€
A maximum quota of CO2 emissions must be respected by each country in Europe. In fact, in 2020 we arrived at 450 million tons for France (in 1990, this number was raised to 564 million). In order to find a balance in these emissions, a purchasing system and selling carbon credits has been set up.
- If a country emits more than the authorized quota: it should buy other quotas to a country that spend less;
- These countries can sell quotas that they have “too much”.
In fact, we understand the logic and interest to spend the least quotas as possible! And to carry out this, it also needs to quantify its emissions.
Quantifying and offsetting emissions: is it possible?
We suddenly approach the issue of the quantification of the different carbon emissions, whether they are of anthropogenic origin or not in an article before.
Since it’s about understanding if the carbon offsetting is a good or a bad idea, we now are going to see this in detail.
- temporality: first of all, planted trees nowadays, in the context of the reforestation project by example, will take many years, or about 10 years for some to absorb the CO2 emissions. However, the C02 sent into the atmosphere has a half-life of about a hundred years. From here, we begin in fact to see a real issue;
- find an equivalence: establish a link and trustful logic between a ton of CO2 emitted by fossil energies and a ton of CO2 stored (avoided therefore) by a project of reforestation is tough.
In this equivalence, we’re not taking into account the other related impacts of fossil energies namely the extraction itself, soils pollution, seas, etc. Or again social impacts;
- the real capture of CO2 by trees is not enough: we have seen it already, unless trees, ocean and coral reefs play a role in CO2 absorption. This has for consequence an acidification due to the excess of CO2.
Because we’re talking about a reforestation project, let’s keep this example: in the 2008-2017 period, we estimated that less than a third of anthropogenic emissions is absorbed by forest ecosystems. In fact, this isn’t not enough in terms of strategy;
- finally, projects are-they all ethical and virtuous?
In fact, these conceptual limits exposed allow us to understand that compensate his emissions “only” by planting trees appears like it’s not enough.
The risk of Greenwashing into the carbon offsetting
More and more companies show openly their engagements. Carbon offsetting, neutrality. And thanks to the purchase of these famous carbon credits of which we talked above.
Indeed, as indicated by the last report of CCFD Terre Solidaire “offset isn’t reducing”. Indeed, the solution of offsetting hides unfortunately a wish to not modify the company strategy in terms of rejection. Moreover “in the face of emissions with definite effects, the offsetting offers a policy of neutralization with effects totally uncertain”.
The forest offsetting looks like a magic thought: it’s the symbol of a climatic action. Yet, some projects are only setting up monocultures: a catastrophe in terms of biodiversity: 45% of international promises of plantations are in monoculture.
Besides, millions of hectares would be necessary to guarantee a real carbon offsetting. However, according to some studies, it needs to plant 7 times the surface of the earth with trees in order to restore the balance of carbon… complicated.
The carbon offsetting stays a climatic action to implement.
These financial contributions allow to protect, restore and complete degraded natural environments or in danger.
But the emissions that are the most simple to offset stay the emissions that we don’t produce, thanks to avoidance strategies.
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