Carbon Offsets and the importance of choosing the right projects

carbon offsets

We look at carbon offsets and the importance of choosing the right projects with insights from Anthony Collias, Co-founder of Treepoints.

Environmental change has been a big subject in the public within the last 12 months, mainly due to COP26 and the protests surrounding this event. We have been joined for a podcast on this subject by Anthony Collias, Co-founder of Treepoints, a technology business that helps connect individuals and SMEs with the best carbon offsetting projects, tree planting initiatives, and plastic recycling initiatives. This can be done through the company’s multiple different methods/ products.

The first method is subscriptions, Individuals can subscribe to offset their carbon footprint, or businesses can do the same on behalf of their employees and offer this as an HR perk. Aside from subscriptions, Treepoints also helps companies with integrations into their website or app. Finally, the third method is to advise companies should they want to know their business footprint or what their office space logistics contribute. Then on an invoice basis, help them counteract that impact.

Collias states they “realized that basically lots of companies want to do more but don’t know how to find and vet the best projects”. During our interview with Collias, he provided us with some fascinating insight into the world of carbon credits and offsets.

The importance of using carbon offsets and credits

The apparent reason to pay attention specifically to carbon offsets rather than sustainability is simply reduction. The problem of climate change affects the future of everyone. Presenting a solution also acts as means of saying, “we don’t want people to suffer a catastrophic reduction in standards of living.” Collias points out that most of the services needed to live a decent life with a decent standard of living in the modern world require a level of offsetting.

Coming from a tech and product background, to approach the climate space rather than the reverse, it was clear to Collias that they need to make large-scale actionable change, saying, “You need to make things that actually solve problems for people and ultimately for the solution provided needs to be the correct solution.” This means that the solution needs to align with the business’s goals, typically generating revenue and profit, rather than as a charity case.

He continues with, “if it’s something that is generative for your business, people invest and do more.” However, it should be noted this only makes a great marketing strategy if it is done correctly, creating a genuine sustainability policy.

Top projects businesses should invest in

There are many different forms of projects. There are obvious ones such as forestation, reforestation, and avoided deforestation. One is the literal planting of trees; one is the protection of areas from being chopped down; these are important as growing trees take carbon out of the air naturally. Finally, avoided deforestation, where you try to stop trees being cut down that already exist. Treepoints have released a risk matrix looking at different projects, concentrating on how different projects have different kinds of benefits.

Article 6.4

Article 6.4 establishes a central UN mechanism to trade credits from emissions reductions generated through specific projects. These businesses and countries can buy or sell credits to offset their carbon emissions.

Collias points out that this concentrates on the marketplace surrounding buying credits which they trade, unlike Treepoints that buys and retires them. The marketplace itself is a little problematic, in his opinion, giving the example of a crypto fund that has come in and purchased around 10 MN credits. Some can see that generally as a positive due to the way it pushes the market forward, increasing demand for more projects to exist and raising awareness.

However, they’re not buying and retiring. They’re buying them and linking them to a blockchain and a token, which is then going up in value because the demand increases. This raises the question of their original intentions. “it’s created a price squeeze, perhaps unnecessarily.” Collias comments. “Secondary markets for financial derivatives lead to this chaotic system where the valuation of the assets become hugely inflated.”

Top countries accept the burden of responsibility to take on the credit/certificate duties

This subject could be looked at in two different ways, first is how countries oversee certifying. Collias points out that governments should not be in charge of this as “any country can be biased towards their political agenda. It makes sense that it’s people like gold-standard, who are part of WWF, a non-governmental international organization, with non-profit charges.”

The second part is countries’ responsibility to require people and businesses to focus on carbon offsets.  On this subject, Collias notes he thinks that “ultimately public opinion and consumer behavior feeds into policy changes and business changes.”

How this affects climate change

The problem of climate change is that we want to avoid catastrophic reductions in people’s living standards. The paradox of consumers avoiding buying things they want and setting rules like not being able to fly due to the emissions so the world can prevent a future where we can never buy what we want or be able to fly is an interesting point brought up by Collias during the interview.

Each country needs to choose an approach to this that works for them as not all countries are dealing with similar obstacles. The understanding of climate change and quality of life in China and India, for example, differs from that in the US and UK.  Collias notes that “too many people take a super simplistic approach and say China and India. What bad guys! Why are they only saying there’ll be net neutral by 2070? When in reality, these are countries that already have huge problems with people living in extreme conditions.”

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The outcomes of COP 26

Most have agreed that some of the agreements made during this were generally positive, such as those linked to coal or methane. Those are important; however, some people have been upset that it wasn’t enough change.

The realistic pragmatic approach is incremental change. The plans made are positive steps, and Collias says that “it’s not a realistic expectation that all the countries are going to meet up say all flights are canceled, or fossil fuels are canceled.” The best change comes from the bottom up with businesses as if “people are choosing to buy sustainable businesses will choose to make more sustainable products.” 

If you would like to listen to the full podcast, it is available on our site currently, here. Collias also runs a podcast on similar subjects named ‘the morality of everyday things.’ available on Spotify.

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Erin Laurenson

Multimedia Content Producer for TBTech

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