The difference between carbon removal and carbon avoidance projects

2 min read
February 7, 2023 at 2:36 PM

Carbon reduction projects can be grouped into two main categories: carbon removal and carbon avoidance projects. They both can generate carbon credits (if certified) and are equally important in the fight against climate change.
This article will allow you to better understand the difference between the two and their specificities.




Carbon removal is the elimination of carbon emissions, by absorption, after they have entered the atmosphere. 

Carbon avoidance is the prevention of carbon emissions being released into the atmosphere. 


Carbon removal projects can take place in two ways:

  • Technological carbon removal: specialized technology extracting carbon from the atmosphere, such as Direct Air Capture (carbon is being removed from the atmosphere through chemical processes). For more effectiveness, carbon needs to be intercepted directly where it is released, often nearby industrial sites. You might also have heard of Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS), which refers to the process of capturing CO2  and either storing it permanently or converting it into valuable products (such as methanol).

  • Natural carbon removal: enhancing the capacity of a forest to pull carbon out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis by preserving existing carbon sinks and creating new ones: reforestation and afforestation. Mangroves also have high carbon absorption capacities. Other projects include agricultural projects.


There are five main project typologies that fall into the category of avoidance projects:

  • Forest conservation and management: Stopping deforestation and avoiding the release of carbon emissions.

  • Renewable energy: Contributing to decarbonizing the local power grid through renewable power infrastructure and thus avoiding GHG emissions. 

  • Fuel-switching: Using a less carbon intensive energy source leading to lower carbon emissions.

  • Household devices: Using efficient cookstoves which require less wood for daily cooking, and thus contribute to reducing deforestation.

  • Waste Management: Capturing methane released from waste disposal in landfill projects and turning it into clean fuel to substitute fossil fuels to power local communities.


Is it better to support carbon removal projects or carbon avoidance projects?

One should not be promoted at the expense of the other. They are both essential to achieve a net-zero future. However, it is certainly true that only supporting removal projects doesn’t address the initial problem of greenhouse gas emissions being released into the atmosphere. We need to reduce our emissions and find innovative ways to limit the damage already done. In addition existing carbon sinks need to be protected while new ones are created. 





-Can remove carbon from the atmosphere permanently

-Includes projects that address the UN Sustainable Development Goals (social, economic, educational, biodiversity)

-Cuts emissions at their source

-Protects existing natural carbon sinks

-Includes projects that address the UN Sustainable Development Goals (social, economic, educational, biodiversity)

-Usually faster implementation times

-Lower implementation costs and thus more attractive pricing per carbon credit  


-Storage capacity limits affect carbon removal effectiveness on a global scale

-Variable effectiveness from one project to another

-More expensive because of the research and development needed for technological solutions

-Longer implementation time required

-Costly with a price per tonne between €30 - €150

-Variable effectiveness from one project to another

At ClimateSeed, we offer both capture and avoidance projects in our portfolio. Our project team can support you in your short and long-term climate contribution strategy. Contact us for more information.