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Carbon Sequestration – “Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing, securing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere” (https://clear.ucdavis.edu/explainers/what-carbon-sequestration#:~:text=Carbon%20sequestration%20is%20the%20process,carbon%20dioxide%20from%20the%20atmosphere.)

Carbon Offset – Carbon offset, any activity that compensates for the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) or other greenhouse gases (measured in carbon dioxide equivalents [CO2e]) by providing for an emission reduction elsewhere. Because greenhouse gases are widespread in Earth’s atmosphere, the climate benefits from emission reductions regardless of where such cutbacks occur. (https://www.britannica.com/technology/carbon-offset)

Carbon Neutral – If carbon reductions are equivalent to the total carbon footprint of an activity, then the activity is said to be “carbon neutral.” (https://www.britannica.com/technology/carbon-offset)

Carbon offsetting schemes designed to sequester carbon have come under significant scrutiny over the last couple of years and it has come to light that in a significant number of cases these schemes are not actually effectively tackling climate change.
According to the Guardian and Corporate Accountability (A non-profit, transnational corporate watchdog) “The vast majority of the environmental projects most frequently used to offset greenhouse gas emissions appear to have fundamental failings suggesting they cannot be relied upon to cut planet-heating emissions.” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/sep/19/do-carbon-credit-reduce-emissions-greenhouse-gases)

On paper it seems like a simple solution to combating climate change. Activities like planting trees or restoring marine ecosystems remove carbon from the atmosphere. Organisations or individuals can therefore pay to have trees planted or ecosystems restored to counteract the carbon emissions they produce.
This is especially useful because it is measurable which can help organisations or countries achieve the targets they have been set.

In reality it is a lot more complicated than that. Here are three of the main problems carbon offsetting has encountered.

1. A lot of carbon offsetting schemes are quite cheap and can easily be misused.
Large organisations in particular can find easier to pay for carbon offsetting instead of investing in steps to reduce their carbon emissions. Instead of their main focus being reducing the carbon emissions at source and the carbon offsetting being used to offset the remaining emissions they are continuing to increase their carbon emissions and they just pay for carbon offsetting so they can say they are achieving targets. In these cases the carbon offsetting is distracting from the fact that they are not cutting their emissions. Greenpeace advises that “protecting forests and restoring natural ecosystems is vital both for wildlife and the climate, but we should be doing that as well as cutting emissions directly, not as a substitute.” (https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/the-biggest-problem-with-carbon-offsetting-is-that-it-doesnt-really-work/)

2. Miscalculations and overestimating the amount of carbon that will be removed from the atmosphere.
“A study covering almost 300 carbon offset projects found that the industry’s top registries have consistently allowed developers to claim far more climate-saving benefits than justified.” (https://time.com/6264772/study-most-carbon-credits-are-bogus/)

3. Carbon offsetting projects may not take into account their impact on local biodiversity. This is particularly prevalent in the case of schemes that plant trees to offset carbon emissions. Many of these schemes focus on planting lots of trees quickly and in many cases they may not be a suitable species of tree to provide habitat to the local flora and fauna and they may favour fast growing monocultures. You can find more information on how tackling climate change and the loss of biodiversity can be tackled together as opposed to separate problems here: https://greensodireland.ie/2024/02/21/biodiversity-fri…y-carbon-offsets/

As you can see, there are numerous reasons to avoid carbon offsetting. Despite already being certified as a carbon offsetting provider, Green Sod Ireland were hesitant to publicly sell carbon offsets.
After much discussion, our board of directors decided that we would proceed to sell offsets but only to companies who we feel are serious about combating both the climate and biodiversity crisis.


Here is a brief summary of why we decided to proceed to sell carbon offsets and how Green Sod Ireland tackles the problems faced by other offsetting schemes. 

1. To demonstrate that they are making an impact, governments, companies and other organisations need to show that they are doing enough to combat climate change. We feel that a combination of reducing their carbon emissions and offsetting what can’t currently be reduced is the most effective way to measure the impact they are having. Measuring the impact shows us which organaistions are taking steps to tackle climate change and which ones aren’t and we want to support the organisations that are taking action. According to the World Economic Forum, there “is growing consensus that companies must follow the ‘mitigation hierarchy,’ meaning they prioritise reducing their own ‘in house’ emissions, then those in their supply chains and only then think about offsetting what’s left.”(https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/11/carbon-offsetting-rainforest-sylvera/)
This is exactly the type of approach we want to support.

2. If Green Sod Ireland and other environmental charities do not provide a high quality carbon offsetting schemes, organisations seeking to become carbon neutral and measure their impact on the climate will go elsewhere and may be forced to choose a provider who does not uphold high standards if they have no alternative options.

3. We strongly believe that the climate crisis and biodiversity crisis should be tackled together as the two problems overlap. Many traditional carbon offsetting schemes do not seek to address the biodiversity crisis and in some cases they can be damaging to biodiversity and destroy habitats. By opting to sell carbon offsets that are creating habitats for native species, Green Sod Ireland and the organisations we partner with will make sure that both issues are addressed together.


How we can be sure that the carbon offsets we are selling are not being misused?

1. We have the final say on whether or not we work with a company or not. We will review the organisation’s plans to reduce their emissions before selling offsets to them. If we feel there is no real commitment to reducing emissions as well as offsetting, we will not sell to that organisation.
2. Our carbon offsets are not cheap. This should act as an incentive to any organisation working with us to invest in ways to continue to reduce their emissions to reduce the amount of carbon offsets they need to purchase as a way to reduce their costs. (We are a registered charity whose primary aim is to protect and restore habitats in Ireland. Making a continuously increasing profit from our carbon offsetting scheme is not one of our goals.)

How do we ensure we are not overselling or overestimating the amount of carbon emissions we can offset?

1. We own all the land we use to sequester carbon. In many cases the organisation providing the carbon offsetting does not have full control over the land used to sequester carbon and this can mean the land may not be managed in the way they expected so their predictions of how much carbon will be sequestered may be reliable.

2. Even if we own the land it is still not possible to predict the amount of carbon that can be sequestered with 100 percent accuracy. This is taken into account in our calculations but we also do not sell the entire amount we have per year to allow a reserve as there could be unexpected changes to the land despite our best efforts and management plans.

3. We are setting up projects to monitor the effects of our management plans on our land. These include, fixed point photography, soil analysis and habitat surveys that will allow us to more accurately gauge the amount of carbon that can be sequestered in our land. (For full transparency, these projects will take time to accumulate data so we are not using data directly from these sites, until we have a sufficient amount of this data)

4. Our carbon offsetting scheme is certified by Ecomerit and endorsed by the EPA.