October 27, 2023

Carbon credits: Emissions reduction and carbon removal

Avoidance or Removal. The two sides of the carbon credit coin.
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In the battle against climate change, carbon credits have emerged as a critical tool to mitigate the harmful impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. However, as we look further into the world of carbon credits, a significant discourse emerges: avoidance credits versus removal credits. In this blog, we'll explore the challenges associated with avoidance carbon credits, why removal credits might feel more satisfying, and the important role avoidance projects still play in our journey toward a sustainable future.

Understanding Avoidance Carbon Credits

Avoidance carbon credits are generated by projects that prevent greenhouse gas emissions from occurring in the first place. These projects, which can range from reforestation and sustainable farming to energy-efficient technologies, focus on avoiding emissions rather than removing them after they've already been released. A popular avoidance project is the preservation of a forested area, rather than clearing it for development, preventing substantial carbon emissions through the avoidance of deforestation. This approach is undoubtedly important, as it addresses the root causes of climate change by reducing emissions at their source.

The Challenge of Verification

One of the main challenges associated with avoidance carbon credits is verification. It can be challenging to quantify and prove that emissions have genuinely been avoided. Unlike removal credits, where you can physically measure carbon sequestration, avoidance credits often rely on estimated emission reductions, making it a less tangible process. This uncertainty can raise questions about the effectiveness and legitimacy of these projects.

Why Removal Credits Feel Better

Removal credits, on the other hand, are generated by projects that actively capture and store greenhouse gasses, such as reforestation or direct air capture technologies. The appeal of removal credits lies in the tangible and measurable aspect of carbon removal. It's easier for individuals and organizations to grasp the concept of physically pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which can make them feel more confident about the impact of their investments.

The Pandora's Box Dilemma

While removal credits are essential, we must not underestimate the importance of avoidance projects. We find ourselves in a situation where Pandora's box, representing the historical accumulation of emissions, cannot simply be closed. The carbon already in the atmosphere will continue to drive climate change for years to come. Thus, both avoidance and removal projects are indispensable.

Avoidance projects are essential for preventing further damage. They address the ongoing emissions that arise from our daily activities, such as transportation, agriculture, and industrial processes. By reducing these emissions, we avoid exacerbating an already dire situation.

The Path Forward

The choice between avoidance and removal carbon credits is not an either-or scenario. They both serve unique roles in the fight against climate change. While removal credits may feel more satisfying due to their tangible nature, avoidance credits are crucial for addressing the root causes of emissions and preventing further harm.

Our focus should be on striking a balance between these two approaches, supporting both avoidance and removal projects. Climate action is not a one-size-fits-all solution; it's a multifaceted endeavour that requires a combination of strategies to reduce, remove, and ultimately reverse the impacts of our carbon footprint. In this race against time, we must remember that we can't undo the past, but we can certainly shape a better future through a comprehensive approach to carbon credits.

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