Archive for Carbon offsetting

Rules that need be neither bent nor broken

Photo (c) Darren Hester

The UK Government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan, published in July this year, makes the case for the creation of 10,000 hectares of new woodland a year for the next fifteen years. And that’s just for England: Scotland already has a similar target. If achieved, the English contribution alone could draw an estimated 50 million tonnes out of the atmosphere by 2050.

Only it’s not really a target. It’s an aspiration, an altogether different thing. Read the rest of this entry »

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REDDy for a change?

There was a fascinating meeting at the International Institute for Environment and Development last night. Professor Virgílio Viana, visiting fellow and director general of the Amazon Sustainability Foundation talked about the project he oversees in the Amazonas, the largest Brazilian Amazon state. A short summary of what he covered is in this video:

Viana’s presentation outlined the successes of the project, which has seen a switch in governmental policy from handing out free chainsaws towards a cultural value of seeing standing trees as being worth more than felled ones. Read the rest of this entry »

Greenwash, Ecobuild, Disclosure

Letting the train take the strainBit of a mixed bag this, and perhaps the title of this post is a little too sweeping, but then we’re feeling a little incensed by a recent article in the Independent. In a spectacularly poorly researched piece of dross, Simon Usborne and Helen Brown attempt to “face the facts many ecologists would rather ignore”.

There’s a grain of truth in some of them, such as the notion that food miles aren’t a bombproof proxy for the carbon footprint of a product. Indeed, we’ve touched on the same subject. Similarly, it’s true to say that an ancient woodland isn’t sequestering carbon at the same rate as a fast growing, young plantation of, say, eucalyptus trees. Read the rest of this entry »

Wither the additionality?

Can upland sheep farms really be "carbon neutral"?

Can upland sheep farms really be "carbon neutral"?

According to a recent report, upland sheep farming is good news for the environment. A Northumberland sheep farmer commissioned a report looking into the greenhouse gas emissions from two farms. The report, produced by the Food Animal Initiative 2008, makes use of the Country Land and Business Association‘s CALM calculator, which was designed to enable farmers to work out their annual GHG emissions.

The two farms were found to have yearly emissions of 3.2 tonnes CO2e per hectare, which the report claims compares favourably with the national average of 4 and 6 tCO2e for other grazing LFA (Less Favoured Area) and lowland grazing systems, respectively. [Note, though, the recent Natural England study from which the report draws its background information actually gives an average value of 2.5 tCO2e per annum.] Read the rest of this entry »

How much should carbon cost?

Do trees grow on money?

Do trees grow on money?

Nowhere are the mysteries of carbon economics (carbonomics?) laid bare more than in the offsetting trade. Today’s internet prices for a tonne of CO2 varied from US$2 — yes, you did read that correctly — to a whopping 116 Swiss Francs, or US$95.55 at current exchange rates.

Some of the variability is perfectly legitimate. Carbon offset projects cost different amounts depending on their goals (e.g. wind farm vs tree planting) and location (industrialised vs developing countries). It stands to reason that the cost per tonne of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent — the accepted measure of greenhouse gas emissions) varies with the complexity of a project and the associated cost of locking up carbon. Read the rest of this entry »

Rock, paper, scissors

One of the least energy efficient buildings in Britain

One of the least energy efficient buildings in Britain

It’s been an interesting week. The All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group met at the House of Commons to discuss Reducing Emissons from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). His Excellency Laleshwar Singh, High Commissioner for Guyana in the UK, was there to reiterate his country’s offer to protect their pristine rainforest from illegal logging and clearance in exchange for millions of pounds of UK and international assistance. The money, he said, would go towards increased security, development of research opportunities, ecotourism and “sustainable forestry”. Improving education, health and employment prospects for local people would also figure in the plan.

It sounded great (apart from that sustainable forestry bit, thrown in with an alarmingly casual wave of the arm), but then came the catch. Read the rest of this entry »

Carbon trading isn’t working

It's a dirty business

It's a dirty business

As the economic squeeze tightens, retailers, manufacturers and ultimately energy producers are experiencing a lower demand for their products. Less production means less pollution, which has to be a good thing, right?

Wrong. The trouble lies with the fact that we’re currently using two distinct currencies, money and carbon. In the good times, if that’s really what they are, the two work well together: demand drives prices of both production and the right to pollute. As production expands, the market for the limited and finite carbon permits heats up, pushing their price up. This in turn raises manufacturing costs, providing a steadying influence on the financial economy. Read the rest of this entry »