How Urban Offsets is Revolutionizing the Landscape of Sustainability Investments
July 14, 2017
Two years ago, while I was helping the city of Wilson North Carolina look at their trees as assets instead of expenses, I was struck by an idea: If I could somehow harness the value of the millions of unsold carbon credits around the U.S., I could help cities like Wilson monetize small-scale, high value, sustainability projects like tree plantings every year. After all, every city has a budget and every climate-sensitive company has a bottom line. If I could align the financial needs of a city with the local sustainability appetite of a corporate climate leader, I could create local carbon markets in each city by rewarding organizations for their sustainability efforts.
Buy carbon offsets, grow trees in communities that need them, build climate resilient cities.
Today, I am proud to announce that Urban Offsets has made a significant step towards realizing that vision. As of today, we are releasing a product called “Community Carbon Bundles” (CCBs). Each bundle supports the tree canopy in one city, such as the “Trees in the Big City” project in NYC. New bundles can be created in any city in any country, using any verified and certified carbon credit from a participating exchange. We can make bundles using voluntary and compliance carbon credits as well as certified renewable energy credits from wind and solar projects.
So, what is a Community Carbon Bundle, and how does it work? To understand our motivation in creating bundles in the first place, we need to take a quick look at the current carbon credit market and why it continues to fail to meet the needs of our cities, institutions, and the environment.
To get started, we’ll define an important term: A carbon credit is a reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases equivalent to 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide that helps to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere. Activities such as planting, growing, and maintaining new trees, which increase carbon dioxide absorption, generate carbon credits as they grow that can be used by companies, universities, hospitals, and cities to counterbalance their own carbon emissions in order to meet their climate goals.
The carbon credit market, the “place” where carbon credits are bought and sold, is broken. There are a multitude of sellers, from project owners to brokers, and a slew of exchanges, rules (aka protocols), project types, vintages, and verification statuses that work together to bog everything down. It’s no wonder buyers are systematically unaware of where their credits come from, how they’re valued in the global market, and their impact in the fight against climate change. Community Carbon BundlesTM solve this problem by assessing the value, risk, and quality of carbon credits before bundling them together into a diversified, stable, and climate-responsible bundle.
When you buy carbon credits from a Community Carbon BundleTM, you offset your emissions today. Perhaps more importantly, though, you also help cities create greener communities by growing healthy trees that will generate more carbon credits. Repeat your purchase every year to continue offsetting your emissions and to ensure that those local trees grow up healthy and continue to provide benefits for their neighborhood.
So, let’s check in on that vision: Monetize an urban asset to create a sustainable source of income for cities. Check…if someone buys carbon credits from the bundle.
Why would someone buy carbon credits from a bundle?
- Carbon offsets are supposed to be an investment. Voluntarily purchased, they should support a sustainable story, bolster climate leadership, and demonstrate to their customers a commitment to fight climate change. Today’s carbon market fails to deliver on every front. Prices are low. Credits are commodities. There’s zero connection between a carbon offset and the company that buys it, let alone their customers. Local projects are a platform for voluntary buyers struggling to communicate effectively with their customers. Bundles turn an organization’s sustainability commitment into a customer experience. Simply put: CCBs put carbon credits to work.
- Carbon offsets on their own have an awful reputation. They’re seen as an excuse to keep on polluting, they enable greenwashing, and they represent “buying your way out of climate change”. I tend to agree, for the most part. Unfortunately, the carbon credit market is its own worst enemy here. It is as opaque as a tree, intangible as bitcoin, and sells carbon credits made by people we don’t know in places most of us don’t live and haven’t seen. Fortunately, people have started to take notice of this broken system, and in recent years transparency has enabled the carbon market to pivot and thrive. Fairtrade, the Forest Stewardship Council, and Green Palm come instantly to mind.
Urban Offsets assesses the risk and quality of each carbon credit included in our bundles to better understand the different value each carbon credit represents (because not all carbon credits are the same) and communicate that to a potential buyer. Additionally, by bundling risk assessed carbon credits together with a local tree, we can provide a tangible insurance to the purchase of offsets. The carbon credits that tree creates as it grows remain in a buffer pool, unsold, as an added environmental bonus. No single carbon offset can boast such a clear local benefit outside of an Urban Offsets Community Carbon BundleTM.
And there you have it, a first step effort that builds sustainable, local, carbon markets for the U.S.
Those two Community Carbon BundlesTM I mentioned earlier are available for purchase at registry.urbanoffsets.co/bundles today. We’ll build more each month and create new ones based on the requests you send us. If you want a bundle in a community that matters to you, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I started Urban Offsets with the goal of creating healthy, climate-resilient communities across the U.S. I believe that Community Carbon BundlesTM start us on the right path by improving additionality, reducing carbon risk, and helping communities build a greener future in transparent and real ways.
To learn more, or to purchase carbon credits from a Community Carbon BundleTM, visit the Urban Offsets Registry at http://registry.urbanoffsets.co today.