Recently, there has been increasing and valid criticism over the carbon market, and the environmental benefit actually occurring through carbon offsetting.
The reputation of the carbon offset market has been tainted by low quality carbon projects, that would not stand up well under scrutiny.
One company that seems to be “doing it right” is Greenfleet, based in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. We’ve featured some of their successful projects here in REVITALIZATION in the past.
We asked Greenfleet to explain why their approach to carbon sequestration is different.
Here’s what they said:
Greenfleet encourages this discussion and is passionate about the need to invest in genuine projects that work to make a positive impact on the environment, climate, and communities.
We believe that emissions must be reduced as much as possible, and that carbon offsetting is not an opportunity to greenwash, extend the use of fossil fuels, or a license to pollute. However, quality offsetting projects continue to play an important role as we transition to a low carbon economy.
Let’s look at the critique surrounding carbon offsetting, the different types of offsetting projects available, and how Greenfleet is positively impacting Australia’s environment through our work.
Taking climate action
With the urgency of climate change impacting all aspects of life, individuals and organisations are increasingly aware that they must take action. While some have led the way in taking practical action to reduce their carbon footprint, others are only just beginning to manage their environmental journey.
Greenfleet enables individuals and organisations to take climate action by supporting native reforestation projects in Australia and New Zealand to offset their emissions. This is a clear and impactful way we can all make a difference to the planet.
What is carbon offsetting?
Let’s look at what carbon offsetting is.
Carbon offsetting is the process of activating a carbon reducing activity to compensate for a carbon emitting activity. If you take the example of your vehicle emitting a certain amount of carbon each year, a carbon offset would counteract those emissions by either removing the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere or reducing emissions elsewhere.
There are two primary ways that these initiatives work to compensate for carbon being emitted:
- By mitigating (reducing) carbon that is being produced and measuring the ‘avoided’ carbon
- By sequestering (drawing down) the existing CO2-e already released into the atmosphere and measuring the captured carbon.
While both methods can play a role in managing carbon emissions, the truth is that not all climate action has the same positive impact on our environment.
Climate actions that mitigate generally focus on the amount of carbon that has been avoided by introducing a more sustainable option. This could include initiatives such as building solar or wind farms as renewable power sources or providing more fuel-efficient cooking equipment to families in developing countries.
Actions that sequester carbon are removing carbon that has already been emitted into the atmosphere and actively work to reduce the impacts of climate change. This is the approach that Greenfleet takes. By planting 100-year protected native forests, Greenfleet is ensuring that carbon emissions already in the atmosphere are captured in a long-term sustainable way.
What is the difference between a carbon offset and a carbon credit?
It’s also important to understand the difference between carbon offsets and carbon credits.
Carbon credits are derived from already completed projects. The completed project is audited, and a number of ‘credits’ are produced as tradeable assets. This could be a unit of carbon that will be removed from the atmosphere through a sequestering activity or through mitigation where the avoided carbon is traded as a credit.
Carbon offsets from Greenfleet are different. When you offset with Greenfleet, your offsets are used to fund future projects, which are monitored and measured to ensure the carbon commitment of the project is delivered. This is Greenfleet’s approach to climate action. Supporters offset their emissions with us and fund future revegetation projects that will capture their emissions over the lifetime of the forest. This means our supporters are not only removing carbon form the atmosphere, but also funding long-term ecosystem restoration and mitigating biodiversity loss.
Greenfleet uses multi-phase verification processes for our offsets to measure the carbon uptake of our forest at each planting site. This includes the Full Carbon Accounting Model (FullCAM), developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and approved by the Australian Government Department of the Environment. Greenfleet’s carbon estate is also verified annually by EY and our work is independently audited by Pitcher Partners.
Why are carbon offsets and carbon credits being critiqued?
One of the major criticisms facing carbon offsetting is that it doesn’t actually address the issue of emissions induced climate change and can be seen as a license to pollute. This is particularly true when highly polluting industries, such as mining, invest in carbon offsets but do not take any steps to curb the negative impact their operations are making.
There has also been significant public discourse and discussion about the low integrity of some carbon offsetting projects. Avoided deforestation, Human Induced Regeneration, and revegetation projects in areas that do not have high carbon sequestration potential are all examples of why some projects are painting a poor picture of these initiatives.
The examples mentioned above can also come at a low cost, allowing organisations to speak to the positive impact they are making without having to put substantial resource behind it. For this reason, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is cracking down on organisations that are making ‘greenwash’ claims in their advertising and communications. The ACCC aims to reduce the number of businesses making unsubstantiated or misleading claims about their sustainability practices.
There is no doubt that emissions need to be reduced across the board. From governments to the private sector, this transition must be prioritised. Right now, carbon offsetting can play a part in industries decarbonising and utilising good quality offsets that make a genuine difference to the environment can be an effective and impactful tool in taking climate action.
The Greenfleet difference
Greenfleet’s forest revegetation project at Battery Creek in Victoria
The transformation through Greenfleet’s revegetation project at Battery Creek in Victoria’s South Gippsland. Nearly 100,000 trees were planted here between 1999 and 2009. This forest will capture more than 23,000 tonnes of carbon across its lifetime and will be legally protected through the rest of this century.
Greenfleet is Australia’s first carbon offset provider and has been delivering climate action for over 25 years. While carbon offsetting is the funding mechanism through which Greenfleet operates, the environmental benefits of our work are tangible and far reaching.
Since 1997, Greenfleet has:
- Planted 10.3 million native trees;
- Created 550 legally protected biodiverse forests;
- Revegetated over 10,300 hectares of Australian landscape; and
- Restored forests that will remove 4.4 million tons of carbon through the rest of this century.
When Greenfleet undertakes revegetation projects we create forests that will grow to remove, capture and store carbon. Our Revegetation Team ensures that we plant a range of species that will provide the right foundation for a complex forest to emerge. We choose the appropriate local canopy and understory species for each bioregion, basing our planting plans on the local landscape and government-approved best practice guidelines.
By including locally adaptive species in our plantings, we create resilient forests that will thrive over the next 100 years. We return regularly to each planting during the establishment phase to check the health and growth rate of the trees and look for signs of emerging forest complexity, such as forest bird and wildlife. We also use satellite imagery and drones where possible to add additional data.
Greenfleet carbon offsets
Greenfleet believes first and foremost that individuals and organisations should reduce emissions where they can, butthat offsetting remains an effective tool for the emissions you can’t avoid.
By offsetting with Greenfleet, you are supporting the future restoration of native forests that are legally protected. These projects would not be possible without your support.
Important information about Greenfleet offsets:
- Greenfleet offsets cannot be traded or on-sold;
- Greenfleet legally protects our revegetation projects for up to 100 years with the view that they will grow beyond this century and become old-growth forests;
- Greenfleet’s expert Revegetation Team takes time to research the native species that are appropriate to the areas we are revegetating. We create biodiverse, resilient ecosystems through our work and do not establish monocultural plantations; and
- Greenfleet offsets allow you to take climate action, while supporting projects that have a positive impact on restoring Australia’s landscapes and supporting our native wildlife.
Greenfleet’s methodology and verification processes
Greenfleet has a thorough verification process in place for our carbon offsetting projects.
To measure the carbon uptake of each forest we plant, we use the Full Carbon Accounting Model (FullCAM), developed by CSIRO and approved by the Australian Department of the Environment. The forests we plant are also legally protected for up 100 years so by offsetting your carbon with Greenfleet, you are taking climate action now that will continue to benefit generations to come.
Greenfleet’s carbon estate is verified annually by Ernst & Young (EY) and our work is independently audited by Pitcher Partners. The legal protection of the forests planted is secured by carbon on title agreements that are authorised by each landholder.
Bringing it all together
Right now, there are many criticisms being levelled at carbon offsetting. From projects that are not positively impacting the environment or communities, to offsetting being seen as a license to pollute, Greenfleet agrees that much of the criticism is valid.
However, the transition to a low carbon economy cannot be achieved overnight and carbon offsetting via nature-based solutions, such as native reforestation, is an effective way to take climate action.
Photos courtesy of Greenfleet.