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Why We Don’t Count Tree Planting Against Carbon Offsetting

We use Ecologi to help reduce our carbon footprint. We fund tree planting in reforestation projects worldwide and support specific projects that remove carbon.

Carbon Offsetting vs Carbon Removal

We will always try to focus on carbon removal over carbon avoidance, which is associated with many carbon offsetting schemes. Removal is critical because offsetting alone is insufficient to address climate change. Offsetting involves paying for emission reductions elsewhere to “compensate” for your ongoing emissions. However, we can only truly compensate for emissions if we also work to reduce them directly.

Carbon removal refers to extracting carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and storing it long-term, like through projects that enhance natural carbon sinks. It is an essential tool because even drastic emissions reductions cannot eliminate all carbon emissions in the short term. Specific economic sectors will still have residual emissions for a period.

Carbon removal counterbalances these residual emissions that cannot yet be eliminated. The IPCC and other scientific bodies recognize that carbon removal and deep decarbonization across every sector will be needed to meet mid-century climate targets. Carbon removal also generates permanent extraction, unlike avoidance projects. The carbon storage is indefinite, whereas many offsetting projects have reversibility risks where the emissions reductions may not persist long-term in the way intended.

Why We Don’t Count Tree Planting As Carbon Removal or Carbon Offsetting

Planting trees helps restore habitats and capture carbon over their lifetimes. We do not claim these trees offset our emissions. Here’s why:

Offsetting refers to balancing your carbon footprint by funding equivalent emissions reductions elsewhere. To qualify, these reductions must meet strict standards – they must be accurate, measurable, permanent and account for unintended emissions. Rigorous certification schemes verify the savings and issue carbon credits.

Most tree-planting programs need to meet offsetting requirements. It takes years before saplings start absorbing significant carbon, and they don’t drink at steady rates. Estimating future carbon storage could be more precise. Gaining third-party certification is extremely difficult; few tree-planting projects have managed this.

Additionally, poorly executed projects can disturb the soil and release carbon, causing net emissions increases. Non-native trees can also damage biodiversity in planted areas. Displacing communities for tree plantations raises ethical concerns.

Many planting projects get certified and issue credits, like those accredited under the Woodland Carbon Code. But these are limited in scale presently.

So, we focus on funding projects verified by leading standards like Gold Standard and VCS, from which Ecology sources credits. These projects directly avoid or remove emissions and get audited to ensure permanence. The recognition they generate balances out Stirlingale’s footprint.

Trees play a crucial role in climate mitigation, and we proudly support reforestation work. However, once more tree planting programs are verified, they cannot be substituted for emissions reductions or purchases of offset credits. We first lower our footprint as much as possible, then offset the remainder through accredited projects.