Last year, I wrote an article that summarised research from ICROA on the benefits beyond carbon for carbon offset projects. A report by New Climate and the Climate Action Network called “Assessing the missed benefits of countries’ national contributions” looks at the co-benefits of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). It was released last month. Unsurprisingly, the benefits beyond carbon abatement from government policy are similar to those from voluntary carbon offset projects.
A quick recap on the “hidden value of offsetting” article I wrote last October: Imperial College London with the International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance (ICROA, a not-for-profit industry alliance) found the benefits beyond carbon for offset projects to be environmental benefit, fuel savings, economic benefit and skills and jobs benefits. Non-financial metrics were also found for technology transfer, public health, air quality and water resources.
Owing to the greater diversity of project types, countries and communities involved, the types of benefits beyond carbon are far richer than those of INDCs. There were five main INDC co-benefits: reduce air pollution, energy security, energy access, employment and ecosystem impacts. So taking the Taronga Zoo / Woolworths project that I wrote about recently, this hits a common theme of ecosystem impacts. But a project I spoke about in my one year anniversary at Climate Friendly post, the Rural China Grouped Small Hydro Project includes education on sustainable agricultural practices and improved sanitation infrastructure as additional benefits. Neither which are counted as INDC co-benefits.
The New Climate-Climate Action Network report “Assessing the missed benefits of countries’ national contributions” report covers the topic in great detail, but I summarise the five main co-benefits here:
Reduce air pollution: Since greenhouse gas emissions come from sources that also have air pollution gases and chemicals, reducing fossil fuels reduces air pollution. Classic examples here are cleaner fuels for transportation and cleaner regulations and controls on power plants.
Energy security: The International Energy Agency (IEA) defines energy security as the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price. A popular government approach to reducing GHGs is to clean the energy mix with renewable energy. This directly reduces the need for coal, uranium, gas or oil inputs, which are often sourced from other countries. By taking care of one’s own energy supply with renewable energy, countries are improving energy security.
Energy access: Renewable energy is being used to improve energy access whilst not increasing GHGs. Energy access is critical to sustainable development, and facilitates sanitation, health, education, income and other important social needs.
Employment: This has been a complicated issue because while “green jobs” are created, “black jobs” are being destroyed. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has invested much effort into research on this, and concludes that a net benefit is expected through such a transition to a cleaner economy.
Ecosystem impacts: To quote the report, “mitigation strategies can have a variety of ecosystem impacts when they alter the use of biodiversity, water and land. A through analysis of synergies and trade-offs between mitigation and other policy objectives is fundamental since ecosystems services are closely interlinked”. The specific ecosystem benefits listed were land and forest restoration, improved crop yields and watershed protection.
This publication, and its voluntary equivalent last year, both serve to demonstrate that carbon abatement projects have significant broader sustainable development benefits. This adds weight to the concept that carbon finance is a currency, or mechanism, for broader social, environmental and economic development. It also speaks to the value of such projects beyond their core focus of carbon mitigation.