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Should you offset your emissions?

We just need to see where we are today, with climate change being finally acknowledged by all as an undeniable truth and a threat for the future.

Becoming Carbon Neutral

There are 2 ways you can become Carbon Neutral as a citizen:

  • by reducing your emissions to zero.
  • by offsetting your emissions through a Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project or an Emission avoidance project.

But the best solution consists in doing both: reduce as much as you can, then offset what is left.

At Tree-Nation we have developed a methodology that explores that last step.

Listening (or not) to the public consensus

In theory, it makes sense to focus on reducing emissions in the first place, as this will need to happen eventually to stop climate change. 20 years ago, this would probably have been the wisest decision. However, we have today reached a stage in which lowering our emissions to zero will not even stop climate change, because we also need to store the carbon already emitted that is floating in our atmosphere. Also, offsetting plays an essential role in delaying the tipping point in which climate change will become irreversible, allowing us a very needed time to complete our transition to sustainability.

In order to achieve a scenario where the world stays at 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels, the Paris Agreement plan includes carbon storage solutions. Without carbon offsetting, we shift to a scenario of 3 to 4ºC above pre-industrial levels. In other words, a doomsday scenario.

15 years ago, the public consensus (or trend) was to put a 100% priority on reducing. Offsetting was even perceived negatively, as it could be seen as an excuse not to reduce.

Tree-Nation in 2006, at its inception, received a letter from Greenpeace to stop all activities. We continued.

5 years ago, the public consensus had moved where not only offsetting was accepted but was starting to be seen as part of the solution.

Today, the shift has increased even more, and offsetting is not only seen as essential but considered by some as the cheapest and fastest solution to fight climate change!

What a journey from 15 years ago! When we started Tree-Nation back in 2006, we were proud to be pioneers. This often means going against conventional wisdom, and we believe it is important not to rest in the comfortable position we are in today, which is being where the consensus is.

Our mission is to look towards the future. It always has been.

Tomorrow is what matters. We believe the consensus will change again and consider offsetting not to be a secondary solution or an essential part of the change, but the very first thing we should do. We will be explaining why below.

Reducing emissions is difficult

Let's be clear, there is no alternative to reducing your emissions. This needs to be done, there is no other way. What we offer here is a methodology to achieve reducing your emissions faster, not a way to escape this inevitable duty.

The hard truth is that reducing emissions is really difficult. It takes time too. We just need to see where we are today: even though climate change has finally been acknowledged by all as an undeniable truth and every company is perfectly aware of it, they keep selling products and services that pollute. And so far customers keep buying them. No drastic improvement has been made, except for some recent (and amazing) success in specific industries like energy (with solar) and transportation (with electric vehicles).

Making a transition to sustainability should not be underestimated. And this is why 'reducing first, offsetting after' may not work well for you.

Time is the issue

Whenever you think about climate change you should see it as a ticking bomb. It's a time issue. We only have a few years before climate change reaches a tipping point that will make it irreversible. 

And whenever you think about sustainability you should think about it as a journey, a long transition that is not achieved in one day. With us, you will often hear the term sustainability transition to reflect the fact that this is not an all-or-nothing process, that it requires time and lots of tiny steps put together.

Therefore you need to think about your sustainability transition from a time point of view. On the one hand, you need to go as fast as possible because climate change requires it. On the other hand, this is a meticulous and lengthy process that will take time, no matter how much you want to shorten it. Time is the true reason why we have designed our own methodology.