CO2 sustainability: reduce, reuse and offset! How it all works?

CO2 sustainability: reduce, reuse and offset! How it all works?

More frequently than ever buzzwords like CO2 neutrality, Zero waste, Climate-centric are flying around at a growth rate never seen before. You probably know the purpose for emission reductions (hint: to help manage climate change), but probably have still been wondering how is it actually done? So, let’s get to it and look at some of the basics behind saving the planet!

To understand how emissions can be reduced let’s firstly see where they originate. Transportation, electricity production and industry in general are the largest polluters by sector while USA and China emit most of the greenhouse gases (almost half of world’s total CO2 emissions). It may seem at first that these sectors and countries are just bad guys polluting the planet, however, on the other hand these activities ensure that our families can enjoy electricity at our homes, get food delivered to local grocery stores and have every-day items produced by the industry, which is largely centralized in the abovementioned countries. We need these things and probably would not agree to go back to the stone age times without them, but how do we then sustainably reduce the CO2 emissions without losing a leg and an arm?


Source: https://cfpub.epa.gov/ghgdata/inventoryexplorer/

Climate change is a global issue, therefore we need global solutions to resolve it – for this purpose the Clean Development Mechanism(CDM) has been set up under the Kyoto protocol back in 1997 and ratified by 192 countries (almost all countries), it sets standards, emissions allowance and principles, that, if followed, would help us reduce the greenhouse gases globally. Not long after the concept of CO2 neutrality has been adopted by businesses and started to be used to communicate to the public that a company, product or a process does not contribute to emitting any CO2, not a single gram. Naturally a question arises – how could a transportation company, farmer or a local supermarket not emit a single unit of CO2?

While emissions in some activities can be reduced (e.g. switching to electric vehicles (EV), efficient equipment and low energy freezers) some are practically impossible to avoid (e.g. buying food, clothes, using electricity). The good side of the story here is – what we cannot avoid (reduce or reuse), we can offset – or in other terms just reduce the emissions elsewhere for what you have emitted here (e.g. support a wind farm development or a reforestation project in a developing country that reduce or avoid additional CO2 emissions).


Source: https://cruiseshipprofiles.com/2019/11/09/msc-cruises-to-become-the-worlds-first-global-cruise-line-to-go-carbon-neutral/

Nowadays CO2 offsets are a tradable asset as well and platforms are in place to help anyone invest in projects that reduce or avoid CO2 (e.g. United Nations Carbon Offset Platform). The funds are directed to carbon capture, reforestation or green energy development projects in developing countries. By this mechanism developing countries are subsidized to build much greener wind or solar plants instead of fossil fuel powered alternatives and therefore many tons of CO2 are avoided. Another great example are reforestation projects where a few tons of CO2 per tree planted is captured and many more for a whole forest. This way a CO2 footprint can be made in one country, but offset in another, which overall brings the global emissions in balance.


Source: https://www.terrapass.com/climate-change/carbon-offsets-explained

In general, while the new times have rewarded us with almost endless opportunities for consumption and comfort the sustainability has been set aside. However, new business approaches, ways of living and technology are focused on sustainability more than ever before and even small steps we make in our everyday lives towards it can actually change the world. So, remember – Reduce and Reuse where you can and Offset the rest!

Want to discuss further? Contact me, Karolis.