Sustainability… It is at the core of what we do. But it’s not always possible to avoid making a negative impact on our planet.
The aviation industry is a key contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. According to Clean Energy Wire, the worldwide emissions produced from airplanes and other aircraft is the equivalent to the greenhouse gas output of the whole of Germany. Worryingly, however, the level of aviation emissions is fast growing. By 2050, these emissions are projected to consume approximately a quarter of the world’s remaining carbon budget.
Reducing our global carbon emissions has become one of the greatest ecological problems facing our planet to date. As such, businesses and individuals alike have sought to look for ‘greener’ alternatives. One proposed action, that has gained a flux of interest, is ‘Carbon offsetting’. This is the process of compensating or negating the production of carbon dioxide emissions, by participating in schemes designed to make equivalent reductions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. One example of this is planting trees. So, the question is: is carbon offsetting worth it?
At One World Women, we know that it’s time we take responsibility for carbon emissions that the travel to our partners in Africa generate. No business can operate without a carbon footprint, but it’s the action we take to reduce our negative impact that matters. Therefore, for every ton of CO2 we produce via our overseas projects, we offset this by planting trees via Stand for Trees initiative.
Carbon offsets can be a great way of making up the difference, whilst also buying some time until international emission policies and systems significantly change for us to reduce our global CO2 output . Naazia Ebrahim from Stand for Trees told us, “we do expect people to mitigate and reduce first, but there will always be unavoidable emissions, and that’s where offsets have a role to play”. Although not a long-term solution, carbon offsetting allows us to be conscious of our ‘footprint’ – and like most things, the first step is understanding that there is a problem.
The closest forest to our Gambian partners is the Gola Rainforest in Sierra Leone . We, at One World Women and the communities we work with, have chosen to partner with and support the Gola Rainforest Project. This landscape is one of the most threatened in the world and the Rainforest plays an integral part to the region’s biodiversity. As such, supporting and maintaining its health and longevity will help to mitigate the effects of climate change – at least in the short term.
Stand for Trees is a community of people who are taking action to protect forests and combat climate change. At the heart of their projects lies the principle of partnership and engagement of local communities – enabling them to become active environmental stewards of their forest. We support their Sierra Leone project, which directly promotes sustainable development and livelihood activities for 122 forest edge communities (24,000 people) in the world’s 8th poorest country. The action of working in tandem with more people-centred climate justice movements, aligns with One World Women’s values – providing on-the-ground support to women within the countries that we operate. Whilst this is not a licence to pollute, as Ebrahim rightly argues it is “just an indication of why we think tropical forest offsets, in particular, are extremely valuable.”
Given that aircraft emissions from jet fuel are projected to more than triple from now until 2050 , many governments, businesses and NGOs have sought to introduce and implement ‘offset-certification schemes’. In this way, carbon offset schemes allow individuals and companies to invest in environmental projects around the world in order to balance out their own carbon footprints. Stand for Trees’ Gola Rainforest project is the first VCS and CCB validated and verified REDD+ project in West Africa and protects the largest remaining area of Upper Guinea Rainforest in Sierra Leone, an internationally recognised hotspot for wildlife.
Each Stand for Trees certificate represents one carbon credit – in other words, it’s one tonne of carbon dioxide not released into the atmosphere as a direct result of the project’s activities. Since Stand for Trees can count how much carbon is in the trees they save, they can put a financial value on the standing forests through carbon credits. Once that happens, locals have an alternative to cutting them down, and the carbon stays in the ground. Through this model, they provide an economic alternative for communities living in forested areas so that they have a real choice between destroying their environment for survival or pursuing a sustainable pathway to economic development. They protect trees in vulnerable locations around the globe so that they “are worth more alive than dead”, creating real and effective action.
It has been suggested that trading carbon credits between industries and participating in offset programs may be the cheapest and most politically feasible way to help industrialized countries reduce emissions. However, as deforestation continues to cost our planet around 15 billion trees each year, our journey towards sustainability continues to develop. Offsetting cannot, singlehandedly, tackle climate change; we must move to a low-carbon world as quickly as possible and everyone, from individuals to businesses can get involved in this initiative.
To calculate your impact on the planet, use Stand for Trees’ handy calculator: https://standfortrees.org/en/footprint
 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-37573434 (accessed 19/04/19)