When can tree-planting be used for carbon offsetting?
Can tree-planting schemes be used as part of carbon offsetting?
Effective carbon offsetting projects all share some key characteristics:
- Real – the carbon emissions a project avoids must be evidenced.
- Measurable – those avoided carbon emissions must be accurately measured.
- Permanent – the emissions avoided must be permanently avoided, and not released sometime in the future instead.
- No leakage – carbon emissions released by a project (such as through operations or by disturbing soil causing carbon to be released) must be accounted for.
Whilst most don’t yet, some tree planting projects do have all these characteristics and have been certified by a reputable carbon standard (such as the Woodland Carbon Code) which can then issue the project with carbon credits. However very few of these projects exist yet, and those that do are small-scale.
Without certification from a recognised carbon standard, a tree planting project shouldn’t claim to be able to offset carbon emissions. Worse still, poorly designed tree planting projects can actually result in a net increase in carbon emissions! This can happen for several reasons, such as planting the wrong species in the wrong place.
Despite this, well-designed tree planting projects are likely to sequester large amounts of carbon over the lifetime of the trees though. However, there is no guarantee that a tree planted today will be alive in 25 years time. If we are depending on that tree to offset part of our carbon footprint we are taking a big risk that the tree really will take up the amount we estimate that it could.
But beyond their ability to sequester carbon, trees are amazing! They have a huge impact on the planet, and will play a big role in our efforts to mitigate against climate change. We would encourage all businesses to include tree planting in their wider sustainability plans as part of beyond-value-chain mitigation referred to in the Science-Based Targets Initiative’s new Net Zero Standard).
Can I use my Ecologi trees to do offsetting?