How offsets work, from the David Suzuki Foundation report
Yes, we know carbon offsets are controversial; Mike started his post The David Suzuki Foundation and Pembina Institute Publish a Ranking of Carbon Offset Companies with a disclaimer about them. But I sometimes have to fly, and when I do, I buy offsets from ZeroFootprint. I was very disappointed to see how badly they scored in the report, down in the "weak" section. I will confess that I know these people; I worked there briefly before TreeHugger, and they take their work very seriously. What happened here?
During GD1, the Conservation Corps planted millions of trees, and they didn't do it for the carbon.
As Mike noted in his post, the Suzuki Foundation doesn't think much of reforestation as an offset. The report states:
While trees can be long-lived, they inherently lack permanence. Large amouts of carbon stored in forests can quickly be released as a result of forest fires, logging or disease. For the carbon in a tree to be able to offset other emissions and help limit the impacts of climate change, it must remain locked up in that tree for at least a hundred years....
Trees take years to reach maturity, and during their early years as saplings, trees can only absorb a limited amount of carbon from the atmosphere, meaning that carbon offset projects usually do not deliver actual emission reductions in the atmosphere for many years, possibly decades, after the trees are planted....
And many other points, such as the forests might have regenerated naturally, or that the replanted forests have little biodiversity.
Not a single point in favour of forestry is listed, even though we have been planting trees across North America for years and there is even a holiday to celebrate it.
Wood does a lot more than just sequester carbon as it grows; it provides a valuable renewable resource that can replace other materials in building. We need more properly managed forests; I personally liked the ZeroFootprint offsets specifically because they invested in them.
Forest carbon offset projects are recognized by the UNFCCC and under the Kyoto Protocol as a relevant, real, and authentic way to reduce carbon emissions. Not only that, according to the wider community of carbon experts and as noted in the Stern Review (2006), forest sequestration is recognized as a necessary component of the actions we must take against climate change.
The Carbonfund.org didn't think much of this either, and noted that The Suzuki Foundation wasn't always so doctrinaire;
Even the David Suzuki Foundation's own science program director, Dr. Faisal Moola, appears to disagree with the guide's view on forest-based reductions and permanence, as this excerpt from the March 16, 2009 issue of Canadian Business indicates:
"I'm not opposed to forest-derived offsets," Suzuki scientific director Faisal Moola told Canadian Business. "Trees are the only practical way we have to remove COâ‚‚ from the atmosphere."
Planting trees does a lot more than just sequester carbon dioxide.
Carbon offsets are controversial because, as Mike put it in his post, "some people don't like them because it seems intuitively unfair to just "pay to absolve your sins."
But sometimes I don't really have a choice, (or I have decided to make choices that others might think inappropriate) and personally try to offset the CO2 that I produce.
Canada is a nation of trees, with many of them under threat by the effects of climate change. They sequester carbon dioxide while providing jobs and valuable renewable resources. If I am going to put my money into offsetting my greenhouse gas emissions, I am going to put it into trees.
More on Carbon Offsets:
My Views on Carbon Offsets [Updated]
Confused Which Carbon Offset Service to Use? EDF Lists Eleven They Trust
Galapagos Island Travel-Specific Carbon Offsets From CanopyCo
How Carbon Offsets Really Work: The Onion