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Carbon offset projects align well with more SDG goals than people might realize. NB: This will be the last Scorcher of 2019. We will resume in mid-January. Happy Holidays from the Climate Trust.

Published: January 6, 2020 by Editorial Team

Carbon Offsets align well with Sustainable Development Goals

The Climate Trust’s mission of reducing greenhouse gases through carbon offset project development sounds quite broad. But in practice we focus mostly on working lands and natural climate solutions.  In plain terms, that’s forests, grasslands and dairy digesters.  In the past, we have written about offsets’ positive effects on the environmental front – from water quality improvement to habitat preservation.  These remain critically important to us, but the application of SDG goals to assess offset projects shows that offset projects have a much wider positive influence.

Contrary to some offset naysayers, offsets are not an either-or choice when it comes to important issues like economic health, job creation, poverty alleviation, etc. It’s not conservation vs. environmental justice. It’s conservation and environmental justice. These social criteria are increasingly important to offset buyers as noted in the recently released State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets report that we covered in our Scorcher last week.

We cannot argue that every carbon offset project is able to address every SDG goal. They don’t.  But there is anecdotal evidence from a handful of Climate Trust’s projects that demonstrates offsets’ power.

The Climate Trust’s 113,000-acre forestry offset project with The Nature Conservancy in Maine is a good place to start. With Maine’s pulp market in decline, the carbon project supports sustainable forestry focused on growing older trees and improving forest health.  This approach provides employment for local loggers and sawmill workers. TNC has even created a maple syrup operation on part of the forest.  In a rural area of Maine that has lost over 11% of its jobs (4,300) since 2007, has an average median income 30% lower than the national average, and poverty levels 26% higher than the rest of Maine, the steady employment created by this offset project has real benefits to a region that needs it.

In central Florida, where Climate Trust is working with a local county to develop a forestry offset project, offset revenues will be used to fund well-paying positions to carry out ongoing forest stewardship and restoration work related to the carbon project. The forested area is located in a county with median 2017 incomes 10% lower than the US national average and poverty rates 16% higher than the US national average.

Climate Trust’s work supporting a forestry project in northern California demonstrates how offsets can improve conditions for Native American tribes.  This carbon project provided funding to the Yurok Tribe in reclaiming control and ownership over their tribal lands. Yurok Tribe members are an integral part of the carbon project: trained and hired to manage the forest carbon inventory. With poverty rates averaging 80% and over 70% of the reservation with no access to basic telephone or electricity services, the carbon offset project provides much needed revenues and high-quality jobs for its residents.

I could keep giving you examples, but I think you get the picture.  And this isn’t just about The Climate Trust. Carbon offset projects have been developed by others with similar benefits – providing steady employment, generating offset revenues to impoverished areas, improving forest working conditions, and increasing access to recreational opportunities for locals.  Carbon offset projects most certainly reduce and sequester greenhouse gases, but they are not a one-trick pony.  They do much more than they get credit for.