August 16, 2022

Is It Possible For a Product To Become Climate Neutral?

Is It Possible For a Product To Become Climate Neutral?

Whether a product or an item can entirely become ‘‘climate neutral’’ is intriguing and challenging to answer. Many of us think that if a product’s life cycle results in the emissions of harmful greenhouse gases, it must not be labeled as ‘‘climate-neutral’’, no matter if the greenhouse gas emissions are offset.

What is The Meaning of Carbon Offsetting, And How Does It Work?

Some businesses offset their carbon footprint by funding projects all across the globe that either reduce greenhouse gas emissions or remove them from the atmosphere. This process is commonly termed ‘‘carbon offsetting’’. Their aims are, of course, admirable, and it is appropriate to inform the public about them- but not by asserting that they are climate neutral. It can be stated more truthfully and transparently like this- ‘‘our carbon footprint is X kg CO2e. We are making strenuous efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas output. We are also funding Project Y, which we feel will help combat climate change’’.

There are two major reasons why canceling out the negative is not so easy-

  • First of all, determining the true magnitude of the initiatives’ impact is quite difficult. Many times, it seems that they do not work at all.
  • Secondly, there is a significant possibility of double counting. Often, multiple parties claim credit for reducing the same greenhouse gas emissions.

Now let’s dig a little deeper into these issues.

Is Carbon Offsetting Effective?

In some circumstances, finding an answer to this question can be difficult. To get the proper answer, we should ask ourselves these questions:

Is The Project Producing The Expected Outcomes?

Things do not always go according to our plan. In Kenya, a large investment was made in certain stoves for their energy efficiency. The majority of those stoves were never used. Despite this, they were certified and sold as carbon offsets. For most of the projects, we will not get the result long. Trees, for example, can only absorb or store carbon. How can it be a yearly warranty in countries such as Uganda, which ranks first in the world for corruption?

Is This An Additional Project?

In certain circumstances, the project would’ve gone through even if the contribution for carbon offset had not been made. Wind farms, for example, generate carbon offsets based on the presumption that the electricity generated replaces coal energy. However, many nations that host these projects are developing economies with rising energy demand, and wind farms would almost certainly have been developed anyway.

Determining whether or not a project is supplementary is frequently subjective and difficult to assess transparently. According to one German study, only two percent of the evaluated projects were extremely seemed to be additional.

Is It Possible To Avoid Leakage?

When emissions of greenhouse gases increase in another location due to offsetting carbon operation, this is known as leakage. If trees or plants are planted on particular land that the local people utilize for agriculture or grazing, other trees may be taken down as a result: local farmers may have little choice but to clear vegetation to proceed with their agricultural activities in a new area. Though the climate seems to be a ‘‘zero-sum game’’, it is a loss for the poor farmers who have to change their location. It is also a huge loss of biodiversity because planted forests always have less biodiversity than natural vegetation.

Who Gets The Credit For This?

This is another relevant question that we should address. It is not uncommon for multiple parties to claim commendation for the same emission reduction action in the carbon offsetting business, resulting in fraudulent bookkeeping or double-counting. The negotiations of the Paris Agreement demonstrate how hard it is to concur with procedures to escape double counting. To meet our climate goals, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all nations throughout the world while also removing them from the environment, such as through the plantation of trees. Double counting always makes it difficult to keep track of the work yet to be done.

Currently, the food industry accounts for nearly 25 percent of global emissions. Even if other businesses reduce their emissions, the food industry should still reduce its emissions to meet the Paris Climate Agreement and end the climate crisis. Crediting the food business for reductions in other areas is not the answer, and such statements risk delaying actual and effective action.

What Do We Recommend?

There are some technologies that, in some cases, could be said to work. Direct air capture, for instance, is a method of capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it underground. This technology is highly likely to achieve the desired results because carbon dioxide is unlikely to escape underground storage. This expensive technology has no further benefits. As a result, it can be considered ‘‘additional’’ because it won’t exist if someone does not pay for it. Other climate compensation methods may be more effective, and we applaud any participation in such projects. Nonetheless, our appeal is this: as food producers, the most effective method to combat climate consequences is to determine your specific climate footprint and, without a smokescreen, communicate that to the customers.