Following on from COP26, there is growing international awareness of the urgent need to address the climate change crisis.
Guest post by Creating Tomorrow’s Forests’ Dr Simone Webber, Senior Ecologist and Content Manager
Ethical and Effective Offsetting – Planting the Right Tree in the Right Place – Businesses have a great responsibility to do their part in fighting climate change by reducing their carbon footprint. In order to do this, many businesses are now focusing on reaching net-zero, where they reduce their carbon emissions as much as possible and then use offsetting projects to soak up the excess unavoidable emissions.
This effectively gives them a carbon balance of zero as the residual emissions are offset by an increase in carbon removal elsewhere. Offsetting projects can include planting trees, avoiding deforestation, and improving access to renewable energy sources in developing countries.
Let’s explore ethical offsetting
Many new forests are planted as part of carbon offsetting projects, with most planting trees in tropical climates due to faster growth rates, cheaper labour, and lower land costs.
Offsetting projects have been heavily criticised for a number of reasons, primarily to do with transparency and accountability. But also for creating monoculture plantation forests using fast-growing and possibly non-native tree species such as eucalyptus.
Their focus has been on planting a specific number of trees, rather than creating a forest ecosystem, even though natural forests can absorb 40 times more carbon.
This has resulted in forests that do not have much value for biodiversity and have poor resilience to environmental challenges. Planting trees abroad to offset the fossil fuel consumption of richer countries also has ethical repercussions, as land that could be used for agriculture is taken up by planting trees, and the projects sometimes have few benefits for local communities.
There can be issues with accountability when trees are planted abroad as it is difficult to track when trees are planted and it is not possible to visit the forest and view how it is developing. Many offsetting projects also plant trees on land owned by private landowners, so are restricted by agreements that only protect the forest for a number of years. These issues of accountability and longevity tie in with those of the uncertainty surrounding the amount of carbon that trees are able to sequester, and can lead to accusations of offsetting projects being linked to greenwashing.
Ethical Offsetting – and sequestering carbon
Done properly, however, offsetting projects can sequester carbon effectively and contribute to increasing biodiversity at the same time. Companies such as Creating Tomorrow’s Forests work towards restoring thriving ecosystems by planting the right tree in the right place. By focusing on biodiversity and considering which tree and plant species would occur in that area naturally, we can create habitats that allow wildlife to thrive and sequester more carbon in the process.
We own the land where we create our forests in the UK. We plant and monitor all the trees ourselves so we can ensure the longevity and health of our trees. Our background is in landscape scale forestry creation, and we have planted over 9 million trees in the UK, so we have great experience in creating healthy forests.
Over the last year we have developed some fantastic partnerships with ethically minded businesses who want to invest in UK woodland creation, such as Sitting Spiritually who have planted over 380 trees since we’ve started working with them.
We can invite people who plant trees with us to come and see the site in person, allowing us to explain how the ecosystem all works together, and provide education on our native biodiversity.
Involving people in the biodiversity restoration process is one of our key missions. We believe that people value and protect what they understand. By working together with nature we can restore lost habitat and contribute towards fighting the climate crisis, offering a different model for offsetting schemes.
Find out more here: creatingtomorrowsforests.co.uk
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