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Carbon offsets are used by companies seeking “net zero,” but concerns remain persistent.

While companies are skyrocketing carbon offsets, some companies say that appetizing informal market patchwork lacks consistent standards and oversight, making it difficult to measure the effectiveness of emission reductions. I am.

The basic concept behind the offset is that activities such as tree planting and peatland restoration reduce carbon in the atmosphere. Dozens of private companies and nonprofits develop such projects, assess carbon reduction levels and issue credits equivalent to one metric ton of emissions. These credits are authenticated by a third party that ensures that the project exists and meets certain criteria.

Companies like Microsoft Ltd

Royal Dutch Shell PLC either purchases these credits directly from the project developer or intermediary, or earns them in exchange for funding the project. Companies can then use these credits to reduce net carbon emissions, an increasingly demanding indicator for consumers and investors. Many companies are looking to offsets to achieve their commitment to achieving “net zero” carbon emissions.

Swiss start-ups are helping companies offset their emissions by creating huge vacuum cleaners to recover carbon dioxide from the air. The WSJ will visit the facility to see how to trap the gas sold to customers such as Coca-Cola for sodas.Composite: Clement Berg

According to data provider Ecosystem Marketplace, the value of the carbon offset market this year is projected to more than double to over $ 1 billion. He said the most active offset buyers this year are in the energy sector, followed by consumer goods, finance and insurance.

Critics, including some companies, environmentalists and other groups, say that the range of approaches to generate project quality differences and offsets is complex and sometimes confusing. Prices vary widely, from just a few dollars for credits related to activities such as grassland conservation to thousands of dollars for recovering carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in rock.

These factors make it more difficult for executives, investors, and consumers to assess the effectiveness of projects that generate offset credits.

Thomas Lingard, Director of Sustainability at Unilever PLC, said: “It’s so confusing for people that it can’t be the desired state for a world that is rapidly responding to the climate crisis.”

For now, Unilever is refraining from using offsets, according to Lingard. Offsets can be distracting because they provide a complete emission reduction. However, Unilever expects to eventually turn to carbon credits to address irreversible emissions.

Unlike regulated and mandatory carbon markets such as Europe and California, where allowances for carbon emissions are allocated to high-emission industries such as steel, companies voluntarily purchase carbon offsets. ..

“Our focus is on the many markets that are here right now,” said Rachel Kyte, Co-Chair of the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative, which is shown here in 2017.


Photo:

F. Carter Smith / Bloomberg News

David Antonioli, CEO of Vera, a non-profit organization that certifies offset projects, said:

Several groups are working to develop standards and guidance for companies purchasing voluntary offsets, gaining momentum ahead of the United Nations climate negotiations in Glasgow, Scotland. At a summit called COP26, the government wants to agree on a framework for the global carbon market.

The Task Force on Voluntary Carbon Market Expansion, a private sector initiative launched by United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Change Mark Carney, is working to expand the use of offsets that meet global standards.

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Another group, the UK-funded voluntary carbon market integrity initiative, is developing guidance for buyers. “If a regulator decides how to regulate the offset, this is a task that could ultimately help the regulator,” said Rachel Kyte, Co-Chair of VCMI. “But our focus is on the many markets here right now, because they are in the race.”

Companies take different approaches to procuring and using offsets.

Microsoft pointed out that the offset verification method was inconsistent, and last year it developed its own due diligence process and called for a proposal for carbon removal, a fundable project. Few projects meet the criteria, according to the company, but this year they paid to remove 1.3 million tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, primarily through forestry projects.

“The market needs clearer definitions and standards,” Microsoft said in its 2021 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Report.

Shell typically funds project developers, such as groups planting trees in the United States and protecting peatlands in Indonesia. Third parties will examine how much carbon these projects remove from the atmosphere and prove the corresponding amount of credit that Shell will get in return for its investment. Shell has also acquired the Australian developer of the Offset Project. The company states that these credits can be used to offset its emissions or sell to other emitters.

In this month’s report, Shell said he was still learning about the complexity of the voluntary carbon market and withdrew from projects that could not agree on standards.

Nestle SA,

Meanwhile, carbon offsets are used to enhance environmental certification for individual brands such as Nespresso. Nespresso says it will be carbon neutral by 2022. We are working with the environmental protection group Pur Projet to design and implement a project to generate carbon credits. A farm that procures coffee.

Nespresso factory in Switzerland. Nestlé pays coffee growers to plant trees.


Photo:

Stefan Wermuth / Bloomberg News

Benjaminware, Nestlé’s responsible sourcing manager, pays coffee producers in the supply chain a premium to plant trees between coffee trees and on land around farms. “This is a huge opportunity for food and agriculture-based businesses,” he said.

However, Mr. Ware said Nestlé’s overall Net Zero pledge is offset-independent. “Carbon credits can’t be a strategy to mitigate global warming, or we’ll keep our business intact,” he said.

Elsewhere, Evian owner Danone SA

We have invested millions of dollars in offset projects, including working on the restoration of mangrove forests in Senegal. The fund monitors the project and manages the credits that correspond to the investors. Danon states that offsets, along with full reductions and other actions, are one aspect of the plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050. “Companies need to be transparent about how offsets are used, the projects they support, and the standards they use,” said a spokesman.

The Science Based Targets initiative, a partnership between the United Nations Global Compact and other nonprofits, is working with companies to determine how offsets fit into our climate change efforts. Companies want to reduce emissions by 90% to 95% and use offsets only for the rest.

At this time, it is not always clear how offsets fit into a company’s plans to reduce emissions.

“There is very little information from companies,” said Stephen Donofrio, director of the Ecosystem Marketplace. “It’s very inconsistent and incomplete.”

Earlier this year, a tree farm in Coila, Mississippi.


Photo:

The Wall Street Journal’s Lory Doyle

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Write in Sarah McFarlane (sarah.mcfarlane@wsj.com)

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Carbon offsets are used by companies seeking “net zero,” but concerns remain persistent.

Source link Carbon offsets are used by companies seeking “net zero,” but concerns remain persistent.

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