Carbon Offsets: Making a Positive Climate Impact

Climate change is one of the most urgent global crises facing humanity. This was as true during the Great Recession of 2007-2008 as it is today––yet while government institutions were immediately summoned to support our financial recovery, no such action was taken to mitigate climate change. More than 10 years later, our economy has recovered, but climate change has worsened.

In the United States, neither our leaders nor our institutions are providing the kind of bold climate leadership we need. International organizations that are working to maintain a livable climate don’t have sufficient jurisdictional power or financial resources to achieve impact at the speed and scale necessary to mitigate and adapt to the crisis. What can be done?

One concrete step is for individuals and businesses to mitigate and offset their carbon emissions––tangible, immediate climate action that has a cumulative impact. Natural Investments calculates our carbon footprint by calculating the emissions we generate as we carry out our work. Our areas of impact include:

  • Our websites: the electricity to run the servers that host
    the primary NI website, the Resilient Investor website,
    and our use of several back-office websites and servers.
  • Heating and cooling our physical offices, our computer
    usage, and lights.
  • Air and ground travel required for research, conferences,
    and our annual meeting: Each mile of air travel produces
    approximately a quarter pound of CO2 per person. Flying
    round-trip between San Francisco and New York City
    produces approximately 1200 pounds of CO2.

Drawing the lines in the right place takes careful thinking, but a rough calculation for 2018 suggests Natural Investments’ related carbon emissions were approximately 14.4 tons. When these fuels are burned the primary outputs are heat, CO2, and water vapor. For example burning a gallon of gas, which weighs approximately 6 pounds, produces 20 pounds of CO2. This seems surprising but is accounted for by all of the heavy oxygen molecules required to burn the fuel. Our 14.4 tons of CO2 is about the same impact as driving a Prius 65,000 miles. Talk about some saddle sores.

Natural Investments has committed to offsetting carbon emissions generated by necessary travel in 2019 and in the years ahead. According to Native Energy, our carbon offset provider, “As a matter of principle, all carbon credits must be real, permanent, measurable, unique, verifiable, and additional.”

The crucial element when purchasing carbon emissions offsets is assessing additionality; for a project to truly be considered additional, it must not be required by law. An additional project exists only in a carbon market that funds projects that go beyond “business as usual.” Finally, an additional project must use a technology that uses less carbon than the technology that is typically used in a comparable circumstance.

As of the end of 2017, Native Energy’s overall portfolio of carbon mitigation projects is producing 103% of projected carbon emissions reductions. Our purchase of carbon offsets through Native Energy supports a clean water project in Honduras that is designed to reduce carbon emissions by 100,000 tons and provide clean water to more than 2,200 low-income families. When small, concrete steps like these become the norm rather than the exception, the cumulative impact can contribute to a livable future for all.

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