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📄 "A New Global Offsetting Scheme in the Works"

Carbon Removal Newsroom

Photo by Tania Malréchauffé / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Radhika Moolgavkar
Guests: Dr. Holly Jean Buck | Assistant Professor in Environment & Sustainability | University at Buffalo &
Dr. Jane Zelikova | Executive Director | Soil Carbon Solutions Center
Category: 📄 Carbon Policy

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[4:06] JZ: “[LEAF] does appear to me like a rebranding effort of REDD+, with a slightly different […] framework where private companies have put money into a system and private companies can buy credits and so can government entities. But […] it doesn't appear to be any more particularly rigorous than REDD and I don't expect it to deliver outcomes that are significantly different from what the REDD programming official or unofficial has been able to deliver.”

[4:54] HB: “To qualify for carbon credits, governments and companies need to show an overall carbon gain in the whole country's forests, or a minimum of 2.5 million hectares. So one of the criticisms of the scheme is that it's accessible to governments that are going to be able to claim big areas of forests as […] government land. So there's this land tenure issue built into it. What's the mechanism for an indigenous community or like a community carbon trust or alliance to take advantage of this? It’s not really clear to me, even though in the LEAF text, there's a lot of language about supporting indigenous rights. They even acknowledged the research that shows that deforestation rates are two to three times lower and secure indigenous lands. […] They say they'll only provide finance to those countries able to implement and maintain robust safeguards, showing that consultation has occurred, benefit sharing plans are agreed in place, grievance mechanisms are working. I mean, that's good. But we also have a history of those things existing and not working as intended.”

[7:04] JZ: “I think additionality is a really critical piece of how we think about any carbon credit generated and […] the screening for additionality and the bar that a project has to pass should be really high and rigorous, and really depends on the counterfactual of what would have happened if this carbon finance wasn't directed towards this project. In this case, […] is there proof that these forests would have been cleared or managed differently without this carbon finance? It probably varies from place to place […]. So the burden of proving additionality is going to still be placed on the project developers and the people that are monitoring and verifying these projects, which again, we have a long history of not meeting those rigorous standards when it comes to additionality in forest projects. […] The other thing to note, though, is that while there may not be carbon removed, there are likely emissions avoided, if these forests are protected. And thinking about sort of the value of protecting carbon stocks we already have versus additional removals, they […] have different risk profiles. So again, the burden is to show that these projects are additional, but in terms of avoided emissions versus removals, I think […] these projects are not differentiating between them in their carbon calculus.”

[9:21] HB: “This 1.0 old school offset stuff, we need to just burn that all down and make removals the new standard […]. I mean, how much can we build on and reform these things that haven't worked very well versus create something new, that's better? […] I'm all for reducing deforestation, but thinking about that as mitigation, telling companies you want to be focusing on removal.

[10:49] JZ: “In a net zero framework, […] you can't really do the math if you're not doing removals, but there is immense value in protecting the stocks we have. So I don't want to over-sell the removals because we don't reach any kind of climate goals without protecting the stocks we already have. And we do have to have a mechanism for that. I personally don't believe it's carbon offsetting. And then we need to develop other really robust mechanisms for conservation and protection of the stocks that we have. Carbon offsets have not been that and we've tried that for 15 years. And how long can you beat your head against the wall before you […] do something different?”

[14:56] JZ: “A lot of verification that happens isn't […] a physical verification. No soil sample is selected, no tree is measured, no communities visited. They’re often desk verification exercises, maybe they're done with some remote sensing, or some sort of a quantitative approach. But most verification isn't rigorous. And at the same time, you need to have people on the ground to know what's really happening in those communities over more than just one days visit.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 33 min | 🗓️ 11/05/2021
✅ Time saved: 31 min

Additional Links:
Article: “A Big New Forest Initiative Sparks Concerns of a ‘Carbon Heist’”
Article: “Re-branding REDD: How the LEAF Coalition aims to greenwash Big Polluters like Delta Airlines, Amazon, Bayer, Nestlé, Salesforce, and Unilever”