At South Pole we see climate change as a puzzle, as with any puzzle there are multiple pieces that fit together in order to complete the picture. Reducing emissions and decarbonising economies is urgently required, however time is running out and the technology to do so is not always available.
That's where carbon credits come in. Companies and individuals can account for their unavoidable emissions by buying carbon credits from certified activities that support community development, protect ecosystems or install efficient technology to reduce or remove emissions from the atmosphere.
Reducing global emissions, enhancing livelihoods and protecting the planet
- From taking an international flight to producing raw materials to buying a morning coffee. As businesses and as individuals we generate unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions.
- The choices we make have an impact on the size of our carbon footprint and many of us are reducing as much as possible. This can include switching to renewable energy instead of fossil fuels, taking public transport instead of driving or divesting from carbon-intensive industries.
- But we need to act now. For what we can't currently reduce – maybe due to a lack of technology or prohibitive costs – businesses and individuals can compensate for their unavoidable emissions by financing certified climate action activities around the world by buying carbon credits – a practice sometimes called carbon offsetting.
Carbon offsets - FAQ
- What are carbon credits and how do they work?
- What makes a good climate action project?
- Why should the levels of carbon and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere be reduced?
- How do I know that the emission reductions are actually happening?
- What does additionality mean?
- Does it matter where in the world the project is located?
- What are the different types of climate action projects?
- Why do prices of carbon credits vary?
- Why invest in protecting the climate?
- What impact does buying carbon offsets have?
- What impact has South Pole created through climate action projects?
- How can carbon credits support a company's overall climate strategy?
1. What are carbon credits and how do they work?
- Carbon credits are measurable, verifiable emission reductions from certified climate action projects. These projects reduce, remove or avoid greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But they also bring a whole host of other positive benefits, for example, they empower communities, protect ecosystems, restore forests or reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
- Projects must adhere to a rigorous set of criteria to pass verification by third-party agencies and a review by a panel of experts at a leading carbon offset standard like Verra or Gold Standard.
- After an organization or an individual buys a carbon credit, the credit is permanently retired so it can't be reused.
2. What makes a good climate action project?
- The key is in the detail.
- High-quality carbon credits adhere to a strict set of standards. You can check this by ensuring the projects you invest in are registered with a third-party internationally-recognised verification standard, such as the Gold Standard, Verra's Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), Social Carbon and Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards (CCBS), or standards verified by the UNFCCC.
- These standards also highlight additional benefits beyond carbon – all South Pole projects contribute to at least 3 of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. This could be improving health, creating better education opportunities, improving wildlife conservation or even building sustainable communities.
3. Why should the levels of carbon and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere be reduced?
- Scientists at the IPCC have shown that increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are warming the planet. This creates extreme weather changes around the world. Burning of fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas – is the main driver of increased GHG levels.
- Under the banner of the UN and Paris Agreement, the world's countries have come together to declare that urgent action must be taken to lower emissions if we are to maintain a habitable planet that can support the world's population.
- The latest research emphasises that urgent action must be taken by everyone in order to safeguard some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and communities on the planet.
4. How do I know that the emission reductions are actually happening?
- The ICROA-approved verification standards all South Pole-related projects adhere to ensure that the project is real, verified, permanent and of course additional.
- For transparency, carbon credits are assigned serial numbers and are issued, transferred and permanently retired in publicly accessible emission registries.
5. What does additionality mean?
- This can often be the trickiest part of carbon offsetting to understand, but theoretically it's simple.
- Additionality means that the reductions in emissions achieved by the project must be “above business as usual" - they would not have happened unless the project was implemented.
- It also means that the project would not be viable without the revenue from carbon credits. Therefore the sale of carbon credits provides vital revenue needed for climate action.
6. Does it matter where in the world the project is located?
- Rising CO2 levels is an international problem; there are no borders in the atmosphere. So, it does not matter where the project you are buying carbon credits from is located.
- Many of our projects operate in less economically developed countries, as there we are often able to create a bigger impact for the local community thanks to co-benefits and extra activities.
- For example, the Kariba project achieves its primary aim of protecting a vast expanse of forest on the shores of Lake Kariba through improving local livelihoods with training opportunities, alternative income streams and access to safe water and healthcare.
7. What are the different types of climate action projects?
- Projects reduce or remove the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere in at least one of three ways.
- The first avoids greenhouse gas emissions, for example replacing fossil fuel-derived energy with energy from renewable sources.
- The second removes emissions from the atmosphere, for example, planting more trees, which sequester - or capture - carbon from the atmosphere and store it in liquid or solid form.
- The third captures and destroys emissions, for example methane gas capture from wastewater.
South Pole has hundreds of different types of climate action projects, which cover the following areas:
– including: reforestation, land restoration, forest protection, sustainable land management and agriculture .
See our nature-based solutions in action!
– including: hydropower projects, wind projects, solar power and geothermal.
See our renewable energy projects in action!
– including: improved cooking technology and access to safe water..
See our community projects in action!
– including: biogas from landfill and industry, and biomass.
See our waste-to-energy projects in action!
You can see a selection of South Pole's climate protection projects here.
8. Why do prices of carbon credits vary?
- There are a number of reasons prices of carbon credits vary, for instance: the value projects deliver beyond carbon, for example some projects empower women or have direct impacts on people's lives; varying implementation costs depending on the size and location of a project; similarly some types of technology are more expensive than others; finally, domestic carbon pricing regulations can affect prices in the voluntary carbon markets too; finally, prices are driven to a large extent by supply and demand.
- The price of carbon credits is a vital factor in how successful projects are; projects depend on climate finance to be established, continue to operate and deliver meaningful impacts.
9. Why invest in protecting the climate?
- We need to act now, with all the solutions available to us. We need to increase ambition and mobilise climate finance to lower greenhouse gas emissions drastically to reach internationally ratified targets such as the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- Beyond the moral drivers, it is becoming an imperative for businesses to take action in order to continue their operations, for example building resilient supply chains and mitigating financial risks. Moving capital towards climate-smart solutions opens doors to many opportunities and can be a long-term growth driver.
- Spurred by demand from customers and pressure from their own employees, more than 170 companies to date have pledged to become carbon-neutral 2050, if not sooner.
- These private companies join 77 countries — such as, the United Kingdom, the Marshall Islands, Costa Rica, Sweden — and more than 100 cities that have set similar climate goals.
10. What impact does buying carbon offsets have?
- Carbon credits have already reduced the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by more than 1 billion tonnes. This is the equivalent of taking around 213,000,000 passenger vehicles driven for one year.
- Actors in the voluntary market are continuing to explore ways to reduce emissions, particularly linking project activities to broader sustainability goals and collaborating with policy makers to make sure lessons learnt improve the market.
11. What impact has South Pole created through climate action projects?
- As one of the largest global project developers, we have developed over 700 emission reduction projects in renewables, forestry, agriculture, industry, households and public institutions, spanning the globe.
- With our clients support we have positively affected over 20 million people around the globe, saved over 170 million tonnes of CO2 , enabled the production of more than 140,000 GWh of renewable energy, protected or restored over 55,000 km2 of land and helped create nearly 100,000 jobs in developing countries! Find out more here.
12. How can carbon credits support a company's overall climate strategy?
- Investing in carbon credits is often a necessary step for achieving goals and commitments, such as carbon neutrality or net zero.
- Carbon credits fund vital planet-saving activities and direct finance to areas that most need it and reduce emissions right now. However, they should not be seen as a quick fix or license to continue practices that damage the environment.
- Businesses must take a holistic approach and develop a broad sustainability strategy to guide their climate journey.
- Following a greenhouse gas assessment to understand the breakdown of emissions, actions could include a switch to renewable energy, divestment from fossil fuels and creating sustainable supply chains and sourcing.