Carbon Offsets

There is scientific evidence that the earth is warming and the climate is changing. One of the causes of this climate change are the emissions of the so-called greenhouse gases (GHGs).

The solar rays enter the atmosphere generating an effect similar to a greenhouse. The space inside the greenhouse heats up, but the heat can no longer come out due to the effect of glass (similar to what happens in the atmosphere).

Some causes of this global warming are, human emissions produced by industry, transport, changes in land use, etc. The consequences of global warming have resulted in increasingly extreme weather events such as droughts, storms, hurricanes, floods and tornadoes, among others.

 

The capture of carbon as one of the mechanisms to mitigate climate change

On the other hand, trees work like a vacuum cleaner: they absorb carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon (C) transforms it into wood and oxygen (O2) and it's returned to the atmosphere

The emissions produced by humans through their daily actions (such as the use of transport, electric power, etc.), are absorbed by the trees. Oxygen, which is necessary for human existence, is released into the air. A large extent of oxygen is produced thanks to the trees, which clean the air of the planet. The problem is that there are fewer and fewer trees and our emissions continue to increase.

To measure the carbon that a tree can capture, it is based on the principle that half of the dry weight of wood is carbon. So, if we measure the diameter and height of a tree, we can know how much it weighs and how much carbon it has accumulated. In this way, calculations can also be made of how much carbon is captured per plot. The evidence that a tree captures carbon is given by the fact that the tree grows.

Carbon Offsets

A company or an individual’s carbon footprint can be quantify by their main sources of energy consumption, such as transport or electricity. This carbon footprint can be offset via the purchase of carbon offsets, which are used to fund AMBIO’s reforestation projects.

There are, certain emissions that to date, all human activity produces. While it is possible to take action to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, there are certain activities that we can hardly stop doing, such as transport, use of certain electrical appliances, light a stove to cook or turn on a computer to work.

However, it is possible that all those emissions that can not be avoided, are compensated through projects that perform actions that instead of generating emissions to the atmosphere, contribute to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted annually.

To ensure that these compensation actions are happening, carbon capture projects have to demonstrate some basic elements. On the one hand, these projects have to be certified under some standard or follow a recognized methodology, which guarantees that the actions for compensation is actually taking place.

On the other hand, it must be guaranteed that the removal of greenhouse gases is permanent. The above means that a carbon offsets does not expire. By financing the purchase of carbon credits in a certified project, it is guaranteed that the compensation of the carbon footprint will be permanent.

Operation of the Carbon Offset Market

The Carbon Market operates similarly to other markets where you have a buyer and a seller. The obligations of the buyer consist in guaranteeing that the corresponding payments will be carried out, in order to formalize the purchase of a certain amount of Carbon Offsets.

On the other hand, the seller's obligations consist in guaranteeing that there are activities in the field, such as reforestation and sustainable forest management, which guarantee the amount of Carbon Offsets acquired by the buyer.

The purchase of a Carbon Offset prevents the emission into the atmosphere of one tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2). To get an idea of that amount, in Mexico the carbon dioxide emissions of per person, is on average 7 tons of CO2 per year (according to the Emissions Inventory of the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change). A ton of CO2 also represents, on average, the CO2 emissions of a compact vehicle for every 5000 kms traveled.

There are, in general, two main types of Carbon Markets. One of the markets is compliance, whose members are developed countries that have a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that can be released into the atmosphere thanks to the international commitments of the Kyoto Protocol Framework Convention on Climate Change.

When these countries exceed this limit, they must buy Carbon Offsets from other countries that carry out actions in favor of sustainability and in an accredited way, to verify that they are reducing the emissions that the first group of countries has not stopped issuing.

The second type of market is voluntary. The actors that participate in this market can be developing countries, federative entities, civil society organizations, companies and consultants. Although, the parties that make up this market must follow commercial or civil agreements, the actors of this market are motivated by the interest of taking actions to tackle climate change, protect the forests and jungles of our planet or take a role of leadership in the business sector by participating in this type of schemes.

The carbon credits are acquired by companies, organizations or individuals, who wish to receive certificates in which their direct contribution to the mitigation of climate change is guaranteed and, at the same time, seek to communicate among their stakeholders about the actions that are being taken. to offset its annual emissions of greenhouse gases.

 

Currently, a long path has been taken to achieve multilateral commitments that mitigate the effects of climate change. In December 2015, the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention and the eleventh Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 21) was held in Paris, France.

This Conference achieved a historic agreement that allowed establishing a mechanism that contributes to limit global warming to a level below 2 ºC. Most of the member countries committed themselves to reduce and limit the greenhouse gas emissions assumed in 1997 through the Kyoto Protocol and to lay the foundations for a future regime that mitigates the effects of climate change.

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