Dealing With Your Carbon

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As we said:

The UK average footprint is about 11.12 tonnes of CO2e per person.
The US is 20.37, China is 6.23, India is 1.60, and the global average is 5.15 tonnes.

The UK target for 2030, if we are to avoid 1.5 degrees of warming and potential runaway climate change, is 5.5 tonnes of C02e each, and ideally less than that.

What should I do if my footprint’s bigger than I’d like?

We recommend a three stage approach.

1) The first step was to find out your footprint.

2) The second is to try to reduce it. The relatively easy things to do are to; buy green energy, fly a lot less, cut right down on meat, only buy what you really need, and to use your car, water, and the internet as little as possible. You can keep checking your progress by running the calculator again.

3) When you get down as low as you can go without causing major problems for yourself or others near you, you might want to consider one of two options: official ‘carbon offsetting’ using tree planting, or just planting lots of trees in good schemes, such as the the ones we recommend below.

You can also choose between planting in the UK or the tropics whether offsetting or just planting trees – or you might want to do a bit of each.

In all four cases, UBoC only supports tree-planting that delivers co-benefits to local people, such as water supply, flood management, food, biodiversity, and/or income, as well as carbon.

Where in the world should I plant?

At UBoC we tend to favour planting in the tropics rather than the UK, because tropical trees tend to work harder for the climate, pound for pound – and we need to draw down that rogue CO2 as fast as we can. Very fast-growing species like Eucalyptus growing in the tropics may achieve 1 tonne per hectare in just 1.5 years, whereas very slow-growing UK species like Oaks might take as long as 45 years to do the same thing here, so species and location make a big difference.

This said, UK trees are still very important, and there are many strong reasons to plant here – not least that you can often go and help put the roots into the ground yourself.

Basically we just need a LOT more trees EVERYWHERE – so just pick whatever appeals to you!

Is it better to ‘Offset’, or just plant lots of trees?

Well, it depends.

Certified Offset schemes offer a specific quantity of carbon capture at a low level of risk. To do this, they need to charge for inspections and so on to ensure that the carbon you ‘bought’ really has been permanently locked away – so the price per tree may be more expensive then in a non-certified scheme.

An uncertified tree scheme may therefore potentially capture more carbon for your money – but only if it’s set up right and everything goes to plan. And it may not.

The choice is yours.

Option 1: ‘Offsetting’

‘Offsetting ‘ refers, only and specifically, to a quality assured transaction which does its best to guarantee that you’re achieving permanent (within reason) carbon removal – with tree planting being just one of the methods available. If you need to be confident that you’re locking away your emissions, as businesses may need to, this is the way to go.

Other types of offset include supporting someone else to reduce their emissions, perhaps by installing renewables, and these schemes can be a lot cheaper. But at UBoC we believe decarbonisation should be paid for by other means, and planting trees is the best way – for now – of dealing permanently with ‘unavoidable’ carbon emissions.

You don’t need to worry about how many trees to plant, because the scheme takes care of all that. They may in fact plant as many 15 or even more trees per tonne of CO2e offset (you can ask if you want to know).

The numbers of trees per tonne is complicated by the age of the tree at the time of counting. If we’re talking about seedlings it may be as many as 25, 15 for whips, or fewer if heavy standards are being put in.

The price varies from scheme to scheme, depending on where they are in the world, and what co-benefits they are offering. Tree-based offsets can work out at less than £10 per one tonne carbon credit – hardly a fortune if you are offsetting the average UK footprint of 11 tonnes.

Some schemes may cost more, but this is often because they are delivering important co-benefits, so check what the project is delivering and chose one you feel is worthy of your support.

Below are two offset schemes we support, one in the tropics and one in the UK.

There are many more, but most will only deal with large quantities for big companies or even countries who want to retire large quantities of carbon. We can help in this case via our own bank of credits with Trees of Hope in Malawi, and MJUMITA Community Forest in Tanzania).

Individuals will usually only want to retire a few tonnes a year, and Tree-Nation is ideal for this:

Offsetting in the Tropics:

In the tropics (where the trees will do more for the climate more quickly), we recommend Tree-Nation’s Plan Vivo CommuniTree scheme in Nicaragua. (You’ll be able to search for other projects showing the cloud icon on their website soon).

NB: For logistical purposes, Tree-Nation typically bundles small purchases of carbon credits together, and then retires them in the name of Tree-Nation – rather than listing each individual purchase in the transaction. This means that when you buy credits you’ll receive a certificate listing the tonnes of CO2e you’ve offset, but no individual serial number, shown as retired in your name. Tree-Nation can provide these on request for offset above 50 tonnes CO2e in a transaction

Offsetting in the UK:

In the UK (which many people prefer), we work with
Forest Carbon and their Carbon Club.

Option 2: ‘Approved Tree Planting

Tree planting without an offset guarantee will theoretically capture the same amount of carbon per tree as one that’s guaranteed. However, while the trees should be cheaper because you’re not paying for the guarantee (so you could capture more carbon by buying more trees for the same money), the down-side is that they may be felled too soon, or die young, or be counted as carbon by someone else, thus negating your carbon investment.

If you’re happy to take the risk, here are 3 places where you can plant trees in good non-offset schemes, two in the tropics and one in the UK. We recommending planting as many as possible to allow for inevitable losses, and – why not – to account for past emissions too.

Tree planting in the Tropics:

In the topics (where the trees will do most for the climate) there are many good projects managed by ITF.
(ITF are our partners for Terrific Tropical Trees)

Tree-Nation also offer a wide range of uncertified planting schemes. These are easy to browse, and you can even see exactly how much carbon each tree you select will capture, along with their other co-benefits.

Tree planting in the UK:

In the UK a good option, with lots of local forests where you can help to plant, is Trees for Cities.

How many trees?

Cat Planting1
Tree planting in Leeds

If you choose offsetting you won’t need to worry about this – but if not, the number of trees you’ll need to plant to be sure of dealing with each tonne of CO2e will vary a lot depending on all sorts of factors like the species, where it’s growing, whether it thrives and so on.

A large mature tree may contain as much as 1 tonne of carbon, so ultimately you need to achieve around 1 new mature tree for every 4 tonnes of CO2e that you emit – because your tree will remove 1 tonne of carbon from every 3.67 tonnes of CO2e (releasing the oxygen and other gases harmlessly back into the atmosphere).

So, if you have the UK current average footprint of 11 tonnes CO2e per year, you’ll need to ‘achieve’ about 3 new large mature trees per year. (Remember that while your tree is reaching maturity, you’ll be responsible for further emissions, so you need to make sure your investment is safe, and also to invest annually).

Don’t forget that ideally each tree will be in a new, permanent forest – so it’s replaced naturally by another, ad infinitum. Otherwise the carbon will just go back into the atmosphere when the last tree dies or is felled – and then either rots or is burned.

But you can’t just plant one tree and hope it will survive, most trees never make it to maturity, they die, or are damaged, or felled, or are crowded out by bigger trees. So to be sure of getting your 3 mature, naturally-regenerating trees, you need to plant five young trees for each mature one, so that’s 15 trees per year – IF your footprint is the UK average of 11 tonnes of CO2e.

We’re sure you can do the maths!

Furthermore. we suggest you err on the side of caution and plant more like 20 if you can afford to.

Hint: You might want to plant even more trees to help account for your past emissions! 🙂

Forest Twinning

As people often prefer to plant in the UK when their money might be most effectively spent in the tropics, we are currently working to establish a new concept: Forest Twinning, in which two areas from different biomes (usually UK temperate forest and tropical rainforest), are twinned – providing opportunities for new beneficial direct relationships between the two ‘siblings,’ while also allowing supporters to invest in both environments, tailoring their support to deliver optimum impact and outcomes for all three parties.

Download our leaflet on Forest Twinning.

United Bank of Carbon is a not-for-profit collaboration between businesses and environmental scientists, which protects and restores forests and other greenery, through environmentally and socially-responsible partnerships with local communities. We undertake research, support forest and woodland projects in the UK and the tropics that deliver CSR/PR benefits, provide carbon reduction advice, and help to arrange compensation for unavoidable carbon emissions