May 23, 2024

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Human factor | Carbon Credits: Action or Illusion?

Human factor |  Carbon Credits: Action or Illusion?

Ecological change is complex. Each week, we explore the solutions we have to make an impact on the climate and environmental crisis.




An analogy is commonly used to explain the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere: that of a bathtub.

If you fill your bathtub faster than the drain can drain it, the water level will inevitably rise.

This happens with CO2 is added to the atmosphere faster than it can be absorbed by the Earth’s surface. If you don’t turn off the bathtub faucet and pay a company to remove the water in 10 or 15 years, will you survive the overflow?

This is one of the criticisms of carbon offset credits that make it possible to finance GHG reduction projects. These credits enable the production of renewable energies, increasing energy efficiency, planting trees or fighting against deforestation.

“Are we paying to ease our conscience or is it actually helping to reduce our emissions? Richard Perron asks a reader to estimate the amount he and his wife spend each year to offset the carbon footprint of their trips, from $100 to $360.

In recent years, the offering of carbon offset programs in the so-called “voluntary” market has become widespread among air carriers. Recently, Richard Perron paid Air Canada an additional $10.88 to purchase offset credits for a flight between St. John’s and Victoria in June. “It’s not a huge amount. Does it really serve any purpose or just greenwashing? “, he asks.

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Gaps are exposed

Among players in the field and academia, the question is being debated. First in terms of program reliability, then in relation to the availability of this approach.

In recent years, press studies and scientific analyzes have shown that many projects, although respecting the highest international standards, do not allow real reductions in CO2.2.


Read a survey Guardian On the Uselessness of the Tropical Forest Conservation Program (in English)

Read a survey Pres Canada’s tree planting programs

Also, while many credits are issued after the carbon reduction or capture has taken place, others are issued in advance. Problem: It can sometimes Years, even decades, pass before trees absorb CO2 Provided by the airline that a passenger wishes to neutralize. However, IPCC scientists warn that there is still some time to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Two years ago, faced with industry failures, the David Suzuki Foundation withdrew its support from any carbon offset scheme.

Carbon offsetting is an excuse used by industries for not doing more to directly reduce their emissions.

Thomas Green is Senior Climate Policy Advisor at the David Suzuki Foundation

In a systematic literature review published in January Transport policyA researcher from the University of Lisbon found that these programs “have a limited contribution to the sustainability of air transport”, particularly due to their ineffectiveness in changing passenger behavior and their low membership rate.


Read the scientific review on the Science Live website (in English).

Biologist Jean-François Boucher, a professor of environmental consulting at the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi and an expert in forest carbon management, believes strongly in the impact of carbon offsets for his role. Up to the compensation plan Has a recognized certification such as VSC or Gold Standard or follows the ISO-14 064-2 standard and is verified accordingly.

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If he advocates reduction at source first, he also believes that this reduction should go hand in hand with compensation for residual emissions. Trees planted today will be of great service to us in a couple of years. “Globally, we need to greatly increase the absorption of greenhouse gases, without which we will not achieve carbon neutrality,” said Mr. Boucher says. A UQAC research infrastructure and it sells advance loans.

Although this approach doesn’t allow for a perfect temporal match between emissions and absorption, he argues, “if we didn’t adopt this type of initiative, we wouldn’t have any plantations or it would be very difficult to finance.” He expressed hope that the certifiers would be able to correct the deficiencies.

To Kate Erwin, associate professor of international development studies at St. Mary’s University in Halifax and author of the article Carbon, the approach to carbon offsetting is a “dangerous distraction”. In an environment of urgency, the affordability of credits offered in the voluntary market does not make it possible to change behavior quickly. “We as individuals say, ‘Wow it’s so easy and cheap. Now I can continue to do everything I’ve always done. » It’s not a transformative solution. »

When so few are willing to give up flying, isn’t carbon offsetting the lesser evil?

If you decide to travel, consider contributing to organizations that do truly meaningful work instead. [par exemple des groupes qui travaillent à l’atténuation des changements climatiques ou à la restauration écologique dans leur communauté]. But don’t pretend you’ve neutralized your carbon-intensive business.

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Kate Erwin is Associate Professor of International Development Studies at St. Mary’s University, Halifax

A comment shared by Thomas Green of the David Suzuki Foundation. “It forces us to ask ourselves: do I really need this flight, and if so, is there a way to manage it? » If flying to see family seems essential, is this the case with a meeting our boss asks us to attend in person?

This dilemma is not easy for many travelers.

However, experts agree on one thing: compensation is not a reduction.

Possible solutions

Number of the week: 287,000

Photo by Hugo-Sébastien Aubert, La Presse Archives

Nearly 230,000 trees and 57,000 shrubs will be planted in East Montreal to reduce heat islands, improve air quality and provide access to natural environments for area residents.

Nearly 230,000 trees and 57,000 shrubs will be planted in East Montreal to reduce heat islands, improve air quality and provide access to natural environments for area residents. The investment by the City of Montreal and the Government of Canada was announced earlier this week during the Montreal Climate Summit. The payments are part of the central government’s “2 billion trees” plan, which aims to plant more trees by 2030.

Read an article about energy efficiency initiatives in Montreal

Good idea: waste as currency

Photo courtesy of Savage Mediterranean Facebook page

The Sauvage Méditerranée Society has put into circulation 1000 coins with a value equal to 5 euros.

The craftsman, the florist, the beekeeper: in France, Marseillais can now pay for their small purchases in about ten businesses with the coin obtained through waste collection. Made from recycled plastic from collected marine waste, the wild coin aims to reward citizens for their clean-up efforts. The Sauvage Méditerranée association has put into circulation 1000 coins equal to 5 euros (one kilo of waste = two coins). For every coin spent at a participating business, the organization will donate 5 euros to an association dedicated to protecting the environment.


See the report on wild bucks on the Brut website. media

Food for Thought: Rethinking Travel

Photo by Jewel Samat, Agence France-Presse

Tourists in front of the Pyramids of Giza last week

Climate change may cause us to rethink our travel habits. Earth is square Provides an interesting exchange about our relationship with other destinations and the challenges for tomorrow’s tourism. This is an opportunity to discover this daily program dedicated to the environment, hosted by Mathieu Withard. Franz Inter announced earlier this week that it would disappear in its current form at the start of the school year and be replaced by a new version, much to the chagrin of many listeners.


Check out the event page Earth is square On the France Inter website

Ask your questions about environmental footprint issues

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  • Between 1.6 and 2 tons of CO equivalents2
    Carbon emissions from a return flight from Montreal to Paris in economy class

    Sources: myclimate, Carbone Boréal