Blue skies over China, clear water in Venice - what effects is the current situation having on our climate? Why is it so important to reduce our CO₂ emissions? And what does "CO₂e-compensated" actually mean? Questions upon questions that we asked our friends and experts from ClimatePartner during our interview.
It seems as if the environment is breathing a sigh of relief in the current situation - especially with regard to the issue of CO₂ emissions. What positive effects can already be seen?
In fact, the positive effects after this emergency braking of global economic and social life can be seen very clearly. It was already in the media at the beginning of March that the blue sky has been visible over many cities in China for a long time. In February, CO₂ emissions there fell by 25% compared to the previous year - which corresponds to an amount of approx. 200 million tons of CO₂ and is about a quarter of what Germany emitted in all of 2019. The air quality has also improved significantly in some cities and regions in Europe, and even the water in Venice is clear again in some places. And here in Germany, too, such positive changes can be noticed, because everywhere there is currently less car traffic on the streets, fewer airplanes in the air and overall fewer activities that cause CO₂ emissions .
How do you think we should respond as a society to support the long-term positive impact on the environment?
The great opportunity for us lies in the fact that on the one hand we recognize what was actually necessary in our previous lifestyle and what was not. A nature that is currently recovering could also be understood even more clearly than before as a valuable asset and an unexpected achievement that we actually don't want to lose again, but rather want to maintain and preserve for as long as possible. If companies are now thinking about how to reposition themselves or how to better position themselves to deal with the economic challenges of the crisis, this would be an opportunity to think about climate protection right away.
Has the awareness of environmental protection changed now? And do you think this will last?
What we can already see is an enormously increased interest on the part of companies in learning about climate protection and CO₂ compensation. Our ClimatePartner Academy - a workshop for companies on the subject of climate protection that is now held as a webinar - has never had so many participants as now. On average, twice as many interested people attended the events as in previous years. And we are even offering a few more additional dates into June to be able to answer the demand. They all - these are small companies, start-ups, as well as medium-sized companies and corporations - want to understand and learn how they can implement climate protection and ultimately use this as a differentiating feature in the competition to the outside world. We had already seen this motivation in many companies before the crisis, and it will probably increase significantly now.
What is the mission of "ClimatePartner"? What specific goal are you pursuing and what is the purpose behind your company?
ClimatePartner offers companies solutions in climate protection. Our specific goal is labeled CO₂e-compensated products in all sectors so that consumers everywhere have the opportunity to choose a CO₂e-compensated alternative.
CO₂e-compensated products, which means that together with the manufacturer we have recorded the CO₂ emissions that have arisen in the company and through the product. This CO₂ footprint is the basis for the following steps to avoid and continuously reduce emissions.
The company offsets all unavoidable emissions through recognized climate protection projects. Climate protection projects demonstrably save CO₂ emissions and thus make a decisive contribution to climate protection. In addition, all of our climate protection projects also have an impact on local development, i.e. usually in the poorest regions of the world. These positive effects can be illustrated using the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for example “No Poverty” or “Quality Education”. For all our projects, we show which SDGs they contribute to.
CO₂e-compensated products are ultimately a means of involving companies and consumers in supporting climate protection projects and the development of disadvantaged regions in the Global South. Our guiding principle is therefore: "Improving lives".
Why is CO₂ such a hot topic? And why is it so relevant to do something about our CO₂ emissions?
It is now very clear how concrete climate change is. It will have a huge impact on the environment, everyday life, health and the economy. CO₂ is produced by almost everything we do - in private life or through economic activity. But there are huge differences in how wastefully or consciously we use resources. The more CO₂ emissions we avoid, the lower global warming will be. And above all: from an economic point of view, it is much more cost-effective to reduce CO₂ today than to deal with the effects later. That is why it is so relevant to invest in climate protection projects today. Finally, climate protection projects also ensure that development in disadvantaged regions is based more on renewable rather than fossil energies. This in turn enables greater CO₂ savings in the future.
What does it mean when products are labeled as “ CO₂e compensated ”?
CO₂e-compensated are companies, services and products whose CO₂ emissions have been calculated and offset by supporting internationally recognized climate protection projects. In addition to avoiding and reducing CO₂ emissions, offsetting them is an important step in holistic climate protection. Greenhouse gases such as CO₂ are distributed evenly in the atmosphere, so the concentration of greenhouse gases is roughly the same everywhere on earth. It is therefore irrelevant for the global concentration of greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect where on earth emissions are caused or avoided. Emissions that cannot be avoided locally can therefore be offset by climate protection projects elsewhere.
Which compensation projects do you offer and according to which criteria are they selected?
We currently offer 90 climate protection projects to offset CO₂ emissions and have access to many other projects through our network of project developers worldwide. In our portfolio we have all the usual technologies from renewable energy, forest protection to efficient cooking stoves and drinking water in all regions of the world.
We select only quality projects. This means: all our projects are certified according to the highest internationally recognized standards, such as the Gold Standard or the VCS. At the same time, we value the additional effects as the contribution that our projects make to the SDGs.
For example, the project you support from Stop The Water While Using Me saves CO₂ emissions by protecting 90,000 hectares of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest in Pará. There is a special and very own ecosystem, the "Várzea" at the mouth of the Amazon. As a transport artery, the Amazon favors agriculture and animal husbandry – which in turn brings with it more and more deforested areas.
The Ecomapuá project protects the forest and bans commercial logging. It creates alternative sources of income for the 94 local families, for example by trading in the açaí fruit. This is not only popular in Brazil, but also in industrialized countries as a superfood.
The project not only contributes to SDGs 13, climate protection measures, and 15, life on land - by preserving biodiversity and protecting the habitat for countless animal and plant species. Rather, it promotes other goals:
- No hunger: vegetable gardens, fish farms and poultry farms have been created.
- Quality education: build a school
- Decent work and economic growth: The project creates 300 jobs in one of the poorest regions of Brazil. Alternative sources of income are created in tree nurseries and for the production and sale of Açaí.
- Less inequalities: The nurseries and açaí production are owned by the local communities.
- Partnerships to achieve the goals: Our climate protection projects are a bridge for companies in industrialized countries to the population in the poorest countries in the world
Because the project promotes development in one of the poorest regions in north-eastern Brazil, it is also certified with the Social Carbon Standard in addition to the Verified Carbon Standard. Like this, many of our projects are essentially development projects that are financed through climate protection.
Our focus is the topic of water. What impact does the reduction in CO₂ emissions have on our bodies of water?
Due to global warming, many bodies of water are warmer than before. This affects the ecosystems. Warmer water contains less oxygen, which has consequences for the organisms living in it. These connections are widely known. In addition, the oceans are also important CO₂ reservoirs, so healthy oceans are crucial in the fight against climate change.
As part of our collaboration, we work with the Schutzgemeinschaft Deutscher Wald eV and with our project partner Ecomapuá in northeastern Brazil. What distinguishes the two projects?
You support our forest protection combination. This means that on the one hand you promote the reforestation of healthy mixed forests in various places in Germany in cooperation with the German Forest Protection Association. Climate change is already having an impact here: forest fires are destroying large areas, especially in the east. Drought and heat weaken common tree species such as spruce, which with their shallow roots cannot reach deeper, water-rich soil layers. They are also more vulnerable to storms. Pests spread very quickly in weakened forests and cause a lot of damage.
This is where we start and contribute to the conversion to mixed forests with, for example, oaks and pines. They tolerate heat and drought better and the risk of forest fires is lower.
However, this project in Germany cannot generate any certified CO₂ savings according to international standards. That's why you also support a climate protection project for rainforest protection in the Brazilian Amazon region for CO₂ compensation - which we mentioned above.
Compensation is also criticized as "selling indulgences". How do you feel about that?
Critics of CO₂ offsetting often argue that compensation would only soothe the bad conscience of climate sinners, and some even compare the principle to the medieval sale of indulgences. In fact, behind the CO₂ compensation are internationally recognized climate protection projects that have a concrete and proven effect in the here and now - in contrast to church indulgences. The project documentation shows exactly how many CO₂ emissions a project has saved. The financial support for this will only be provided afterwards. So you don't have to believe in salvation in the afterlife, you can calculate this effect quite concretely.
How do you achieve CO₂ positivity as a brand or company? Do you know of examples where this is already the case?
Every brand and every company still emits CO₂. By ensuring that CO₂ emissions are avoided elsewhere , the company can at most compensate for CO₂e , and no further increase in this can be CO₂-positive. We think it is misleading to call something CO₂-positive or climate-positive, because it suggests that this consumption can do something positive for the climate, and the more climate-positive products that are bought, the better it is for the climate. Of course that is not the case. Climate protection is only effective if avoidance, reduction and CO₂ offsetting are promoted at the same time.
What tips do you have for each individual to live climate-friendly?
Make conscious decisions: every consumption causes CO₂ . So do I really have to make this drive, do I need the product, how warm does my living room have to be?
And then take responsibility. I can't stop heating or even work. But I can support climate protection projects and buy CO₂e-compensated products.
What question should we have asked you?
What is important when it comes to CO₂ offsetting, apart from the climate protection project that you are supporting?
And our answer right away: in addition to the quality and purpose of the project, transparency is crucial. Can the consumer understand how much CO₂ was offset via which project? How credible is that?
Our label and ID tracking along with our entire IT solution for calculation and compensation are checked every year by TÜV Austria. Like no other, our label stands for transparency and traceability in climate protection. Incidentally, it is also recommended by Siegelklarheit.de (BMZ) and labelinfo.ch.
Which headline would you like to read in the future?
" CO₂e-compensated products in every shopping cart"