A carbon offset means compensating for emitting one tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere by preventing a tonne of CO2 from entering the atmosphere elsewhere on Earth. This could be achieved by either stopping an emission from being made (avoided emissions), or physically removing, or capturing carbon dioxide that’s already been emitted (sequestered emissions).
The types of activities that can be awarded carbon credits and used as offsets are things like avoiding deforestation, regenerating vegetation, planting forests, managing food waste, and developing energy efficiency technologies..
Carbon credits function as a kind of tradable “certificate” linked to these carbon projects. So a company, government body, or even individuals, can buy these certificates and fund projects to balance out any carbon emissions they are unable to reduce, with the goal to achieve net zero emissions.
Most people (and companies) have a carbon footprint (the amount of carbon dioxide they produce and emit into the atmosphere), so offsetting their carbon emissions is an excellent way to quickly and effectively zero their overall contribution and achieve carbon neutrality. But what is a carbon footprint, and how do carbon credits actually reduce your footprint?
Let’s start at the beginning…
WHAT IS A CARBON FOOTPRINT?
A carbon footprint is the measurement of the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) generated by our actions. GHGs include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, each of which influence climate change as they trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the planet. When it’s only a small amount of GHGs, it’s not too much of a problem. The issue is, however, that on a global scale, humanity's carbon footprint has increased 11-fold since 1961. That’s a lot of GHGs in the atmosphere that are contributing to our rapidly warming climate, and if we want to limit the impacts of global warming to 1.5 °C, it’s something we need to address - quickly.
While the global average yearly carbon footprint is only 4 tonnes per person, if you break down the data by country, developed countries like Australia have an average carbon footprint of 22.4 tonnes compared to just 0.8 tonnes per person in Sub-Saharan Africa. So how exactly do we manage to have such a large carbon footprint?
It’s all in our lifestyle.
The carbon footprint that anyone has can include both direct and indirect sources of emissions . A direct emission is attributed to the things we do, and indirect emissions come from the things we buy. Any time you drive your car, heat your home, or waste food, a certain amount of carbon dioxide is produced directly from your actions. However, when you buy certain food, clothes, or other goods, you may also have an indirect carbon footprint as a result of factors such as manufacturing, extraction, transport, and wastage.
Once you understand your personal carbon footprint, there are steps you can take to reduce it . And, if we want any real chance to avoid global warming above 1.5°C, we need to reduce the global average carbon footprint per person to under 2 tonnes by 2050. That’s a lot of carbon dioxide we need to remove, reduce and recover from our lifestyles - and one of the reasons why the solution of carbon offsetting is so important.
WHAT ARE CARBON OFFSETS?
Carbon offseting is the reduction, removal, or storage of carbon dioxide and other GHGs emissions, that neutralise the emissions of these gases made somewhere else. The terms ‘carbon credits’ and ‘carbon offsets’ are often used interchangeably. A carbon credit is a financial product that represents ownership of one metric tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent that can be traded, sold, retired, etc. By retiring carbon credits you ‘offset’ emissions that you are as yet unable to reduce.
HOW DO CARBON OFFSETS WORK?
Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions can be offset through environmental projects that create carbon sinks, which are oceans, forests, lands, and other natural resources that can absorb carbon out of the atmosphere. The carbon projects that we support focus on natural carbon capture methods, such as Human Induced Regeneration (HIR). This is a natural method of carbon sequestration that focuses on regenerating native vegetation by changing land management practices, and protecting that regeneration for a period of 25 to 100 years. In a nutshell, HIR projects help farmers switch to more sustainable farming practices and reward them for the carbon that is captured in the native vegetation they regenerate in the process.
These projects are independently audited and verified to ensure they deliver tangible results. The projects Go Neutral supports provide high quality, high integrity carbon credits that are real and additional.
HOW DO CARBON OFFSETS ADDRESS YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
Carbon offsets are an immediate and effective way to reduce your carbon footprint today, and contribute towards carbon reduction projects that build a greener Australia. While making sustainable lifestyle choices and being eco-friendly is incredibly beneficial to reducing your footprint, it’s more than likely you’ll still have a carbon footprint from unavoidable direct and indirect emissions. When you choose to offset the footprint you can’t reduce, you are essentially purchasing an amount of carbon reduction that is the equivalent to the carbon you produce, and becoming carbon neutral!
That being said, buying carbon credits does not give a person the excuse to emit more carbon. The goal is for everyone to reduce their carbon footprint; not just offset. Ideally we need to see reduced emissions on a much wider scale across the country and world to have a real chance at slowing global warming.
BENEFITS OF CARBON OFFSETTING - MORE THAN JUST CARBON.
Carbon credit projects offer more than just reducing your carbon footprint and mitigating GHG emissions. They offer a number of additional benefits that build not only a stronger and healthier Australia, but also deliver:
- Environmental benefits. Thanks to the natural carbon capturing methods, projects benefit from reduced erosion, restored bushland, improved water quality, and increased natural habitat for native animal and plant species which leads to greater biodiversity.
- Social and cultural benefits. Many carbon projects positively impact the regional communities in which they are based, providing new job opportunities, and increased community investment.
- Economic benefits. Farmers, Traditional Owners and other land managers are able to benefit from the financial flows from the sale of carbon credits from their project, which they are able to reinvest back into the land. The additional financial benefits also provide an income stream that helps farmers prepare for and manage the effects of drought and other environmental challenges.
Without the carbon credits financing these climate-action projects, many of these benefits would not be realized.
CAN YOU TRUST CREDITS?
Solving the climate change conundrum needs a number of different solutions that address long term reduction and well as short to mid-term mitigation of ongoing emissions. Carbon offset programs address this short to mid-term need. Carbon credits help mitigate climate change by reducing carbon emissions today, and nature based projects regenerate landscapes long term. Due to our rigorous auditing and reporting process, Go Neutral is confident that all the Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) that we produce, purchase, and surrender on behalf of our customers are real and high quality.
All our projects are independently audited and verified, so you don't just need to take our word for it. The projects we source from are carefully monitored and measured at regular intervals to ensure they are delivering tangible results. This includes daily remote monitoring via satellite imagery which is backed up with quarterly reviews and on-ground field work to measure actual changes in vegetation. Independent auditors then take up to six weeks and 100 hours to analyse project data and carry out their own on-ground checks before ACCUs are issued. In other words, your offset is real and additional.
Offsetting carbon emissions alone is not going to tackle climate change—it is a complex problem that requires a multitude of ways to solve it. We need to find all sorts of methods to mitigate carbon emissions, which includes carbon offsets. Crucially, we need a combination of reducing our carbon footprint and offsetting carbon emissions if we have any hope of reaching net zero.
Offsetting and reducing your carbon footprint go hand-in-hand and are not exclusive activities. Carbon offsets are not tools to cure pollution guilt and emit more - but rather provide opportunities for individuals to take action and be a part of the global carbon reduction movement. One small act by an individual to offset their carbon footprint, in the collective, can help save the planet by financing carbon-sink conservation projects that rehabilitate the environment, provide jobs for the community, and create new income streams.
If you’re thinking about ways to reduce your carbon footprint and finance climate-action projects at the same time, you can take responsibility for your carbon footprint by offsetting your emissions with Go Neutral.
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