A Pinch of Knowledge: What’s the difference between carbon avoidance and removal?
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In our previous post we outlined the basics of carbon credits and offsets and when offsets are appropriate. We’d love it if you gave it a read, but we know you’re busy so here’s a quick run-down: carbon credits are permission slips to pollute that a company buys, usually from the government. Carbon offsets represent the avoidance or removal of one ton of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere. Offsets are appropriate for ‘covering’ the 5-10% of emissions that are impossible to eliminate, only after a company plans to eliminate 90-95% of their emissions through decarbonization activities. In similar fashion, individuals can work on reducing their carbon footprint and use carbon offsets from Salt to cover what they can’t avoid.
So, what’s the difference between avoidance and removal? Carbon avoidance offsets work to prevent emissions before they happen, and carbon removal offsets take carbon and/or other greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere. Both types are important in the fight against climate change
There are pros and cons of carbon avoidance and removal:
There are also co-benefits of projects outside of the carbon avoidance or removal aspect that shouldn’t be forgotten. These benefits can be environmental and/or social and can include, but are not limited to:
- Biodiversity promotion
- Coastal defense
- Erosion control
- Air and/or water quality improvement
- Job creation
- Stimulation of local economies
Nature- vs. Technology-Based Solutions
Both types of offsets can rely on nature-based or technology-based solutions. Nature-based carbon solutions are actions taken to conserve, restore, and better manage ecosystems to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or avoid potential emissions. Technology-based solutions use technologies like direct air capture to absorb and store carbon dioxide. Nature-based solutions tend to have more environmental co-benefits.
Not all nature-based solutions are part of carbon offset credit programs. Planting verified trees with Salt is an example of a nature-based solution that removes carbon from the atmosphere, but isn’t a certified carbon offset.
Mixed public opinion has stopped some companies from utilizing offsets. They can be difficult to message even if they are high quality and used for that last 5-10% of emissions that just can’t be eliminated. Nature-based solutions that are not part of an offset program can be messaged in a way that highlights all of the initiative’s benefits without having the sometimes controversial word ‘offset’ associated with it. These solutions can also be less expensive than offsets, depending on the method of avoidance or removal.
Congratulations! You now know more about offsets than most consumers. You have the power to use this information to analyze businesses' claims and determine if they are making real, positive change or just using greenwashing to attract good-intentioned eco-conscious consumers. You can also apply this information to yourself and work to reduce your carbon footprint and then offset what’s unavoidable. Now get out there and use that knowledge for good!