The best way to reduce emissions is to stop producing them in the first place! Carbon offsetting should be considered when you've done everything you can to live lightly, or if you are seeking to cancel out emissions from activities that you can't avoid (such as taking an important flight). There have also been some concerning investigations into international offset companies that suggest some of projects they support don't sequester as much carbon as they claim.
Basically, we can't offset enough to stop the impact of climate change. Here's some info and tips to make offsets work for you.
- What is carbon offsetting?
- How do carbon credits work in Aotearoa?
- What are the carbon offsetting options for Kiwis?
What is carbon offsetting?
Carbon offsetting allows individuals and organisations to invest in projects that remove carbon emissions, in order to balance out the emissions they have created.
The main types of carbon reducing projects are:
- Tree planting, e.g. restoration and forestry that sequesters or 'locks in' carbon.
- Conservation projects that preserve existing native forests as permanent carbon 'sinks'.
- Renewable energy (non fossil fuel) projects or other initiatives that reduce emissions in developing countries (often referred to as 'Clean Development Mechanism' as defined in the Kyoto Protocol).
There are two ways to offset your carbon emissions:
Plant trees yourself or pay someone to do it on your behalf (as a rule of thumb, one New Zealand native tree species planted is the equivalent of removing 14.8kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, per year).
Purchase carbon credits (one carbon credit is equivalent to removing one tonne of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere).
How do carbon credits work in Aotearoa?
Carbon credits are allocated to carbon-reducing projects through a formal certification process. Project owners can then sell or trade their carbon credits through regulated or voluntary carbon markets.
In Aotearoa, we have both regulated and voluntary carbon trading markets:
- The Emissions Trading Scheme is a regulated carbon market operated by the New Zealand government. The primary users of the Emissions Trading Scheme are large carbon emitters who are legally required to offset their carbon emissions.
- The voluntary carbon market in Aotearoa is made up of independently certified projects, that sell carbon credits through brokers to anyone who wants to offset their emissions. Check out the list of brokers for certified planting projects in Aotearoa.
- Alternatively, there are personal actions you can take to offset your carbon emissions, that do not do not require the purchase of carbon credits to balance your personal carbon emissions. You can do it yourself or invest in local tree planting programmes.
What are the carbon offsetting options for Kiwis?
There are a number of ways you can choose to offset your carbon emissions and work towards being carbon neutral.
Planting trees is a great way to offset your remaining or unavoidable carbon emissions because you can be certain of the carbon saving potential and are contributing to New Zealand's carbon sinks. Planting native trees is also great for biodiversity, making your neighbourhood cooler and allowing more water to be soaked up during periods of heavy rain.
You may choose to plant trees at your place or support community planting days in your area. However, if you don't have the space or time to plant trees yourself, you can invest in larger scale tree planting activities across Aotearoa, or purchase carbon credits in order to offset your carbon emissions.
- Plant trees at home
- Join a community planting day