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Top Sustainability News #7

Alexandre Risser
You don't want to miss out on the latest news related to carbon markets and sustainable development. Find out our Top Sustainability News! 

“Austria vetoes Mercosur deal saying it goes against EU Green Deal

Austria has voted against implementing the current deal, potentially the most significant free-trade zone in the World, due to environmental concerns. Discussions are on-going on the development of a free-trade area between the European Union Market and Mercosur. “If we go on boosting trade and economic growth without taking the impacts on biodiversity, ecosystems, and natural resources into account, we will inevitably be heading towards a climate catastrophe.” It highlights the critical dilemma that our society faces between economic development and sustainability (learn more here about the link between the two). This agreement would reinforce economic growth, but increase our negative impact on the environment. “We must seize this opportunity to use the Green Deal to advance international climate protection and give new impetus to the Paris Agreement. Signing the Mercosur trade agreement would thwart such progress.” In line with the EU Green Deal, Austria has declared that this agreement cannot proceed since it would drastically increase CO2 emissions. This decision from Austria has been positively embraced by the Green Parties and members all over Europe. Austria declared that they are not opposed to this agreement, but environmental commitments should be set-up to match the target fixed by the Green Deal. 

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Carbon offsets are only delaying emissions

An interesting interview of Kate Dooley, a research fellow from the University of Melbourne, studies the impact of carbon accounting and offsets. Her work aims to analyze the impact of carbon trading/financing to mitigate Climate Change. “For various reasons, carbon offsets tend to primarily focus on forest offsets, forest and land. And that’s where the real problem is, because continuing to dig up and burn fossil fuels and emitting fossil fuel emissions into the atmosphere, and then removing these by growing forests doesn’t actually reduce atmospheric emissions or atmospheric concentrations over a century-long time scale.” She highlights one very important limitation of carbon offsets, which is the fact that some project typologies, such as forestry projects, can’t  help us reduce the current emissions because of their time-scale. One of the main issues related to the quality of the carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market is linked to the permanence of carbon projects that need to be kept in the long term to become efficient. “When we plant more trees, we can’t guarantee that we’ve taken this carbon up for 1,000 years. The carbon cycle of trees is cycling on years and decades, whereas geological reservoirs are essentially permanent.” Immediately limiting carbon emissions is more easily calculated then the long term impact of carbon offsetting. 

One sentence that really summarizes well the interview is: “Carbon offsetting is not designed to reduce the net amount of emissions in the atmosphere — it’s designed not to increase the amount of emissions in the atmosphere. Offsetting essentially means for every ton we remove, we emit a ton somewhere else.” 

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Is the ‘Legacy’ Carbon Credit Market a Climate Plus or Just Hype?

The ‘Legacy’ of carbon credits appears to be a critical piece of information to assess its quality. “Critics warn of a growing market in outdated credits that offer no carbon benefit for the planet, since the carbon-saving projects they were once intended to fund have long been in operation without the benefit of sales of credits.“ Alongside Legacy, the most significant notion related to carbon credits is the notion of additionality. Projects generating credits are considered additional when the sale of carbon credits has permitted the development of the project. Without the sale of the carbon credits, the project would not have emerged. “The danger is that some of these projects would have happened regardless, because they perform other valuable services and did not require the extra funding — in which case the offsets can be an illusion, and the only effect is to allow the polluter to carry on emitting CO2.” For some of the projects, additionality could be contested, particularly for some of the renewable energies projects, which do not require additional fundings from the sale of carbon credits to exist. “Some of the projects that are ten or more years old. The cost of producing renewable energy has crashed in the past decade, and they generally no longer need subsidizing carbon credits.” Additionality is a challenging criteria, especially as requirements can vary depending on the project typology, which is why it can be complicated to verify this. As part of ClimateSeed’s three-step selection process, a project’s additionality is assessed throughout our third step, which is the review from our Internal Sustainability Committee. The Committee, which is composed of market experts, assesses the technical aspects and claims of the projects to ensure that all projects on our platform meet our requirements and are high quality carbon credits. 

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Article written by Alexandre Risser