How do we offset your flight. What you need to consider as 2021 unfolds.

Flying must never be the same – we think twice and we offset the carbon footprint of every flight

By the end of 2019 a growing privileged portion of humanity had really reached a level of complacency around flying that had normalised everything from shopping trips to Dubai to a week on the beach in India. All of that has changed now, as we have chosen to ground ourselves for our own individual safety. For the survival of all life we must think twice about taking off on the same mad trajectory. And for the flying that continues from here on, every flight must be at least fully compensated using the clear logic of #burntitbalanceit. Somehow, the flying habit, like all our habits, needs to align with Net zero.

But how do we choose the best carbon removal projects? The ones that ensure solid action on carbon, and perhaps equally important social and ecological action. Here are some thoughts to help choose the best way to offset your flight:

0.1 Not all carbon offsets are the same

People find it hard to tell the difference between projects that look similar at first, but in reality it’s a case of oranges and apples. Tree planting for example can mean many things and can be done in many different ways. You can differentiate by leaning on recognised global standards for carbon removal projects. You can also see the deeper difference by looking at who is involved in projects and why they are doing what they are doing. The people and organisations. At a time when carbon removal is going through another boom, this is super important.

0.2 Not all carbon standards are the same

Relying on standards is good. You could for example choose carbon removal projects certified under the Gold Standard, or the VCS (Verified Carbon Standard). Many people gravitate straight towards Gold Standard simply because it’s called the Gold Standard. C Level has chosen to work with a carbon standard that tightly defines the quality of projects from the most ethical and holistic standpoint. It is called Plan Vivo, meaning Living Plan, and it predates every other carbon standard.

0.3 The Plan Vivo standard sets the bar for nature and community based climate projects

Over the last 20 years, we have identified and built relationships with the most effective and holistic carbon removal projects in the world. All of them are designed and verified for carbon benefits under the Plan Vivo Standard, run by the Scottish charity, the Plan Vivo Foundation. For over 25 years, Plan Vivo has recognised the need to empower smallholders and communities to work with nature to drawn down carbon and uplift livelihoods. 

The nature of the standard means all the projects we work with are therefore holistic. By design, they have people and nature at the heart of the project. Projects are creating forests on peoples own land, aligning with long term support for their livelihoods. And these are the only kind of projects you will find under Plan Vivo and offered by C Level. Simply planting trees is not enough.

0.4 Not all organisations are the same

Mission and purpose are terms that are being overused again. But again, how to see through the band wagoning and the marketing gloss to see the real stuff that is happening and the true intentions of the people involved. What works for us about Plan Vivo is that it is a network of practitioners and organisations dedicated to empowering communities to create climate solutions that work for the world and for the community. Most of the projects are run by NGO’s, and charities that are fully mission focussed. Others, like C Level, are social enterprises certified B Corps who have changed their very legal structure to be acting not for shareholders alone but for all of life.

0.5 How do Plan Vivo projects remove carbon?

Everything is made transparent in the way that projects must be designed to deliver action on carbon, ecology and livelihoods. The carbon benefit from reforestation and forest protection is quantified as a Plan Vivo Certificate (PVC). Each certificate issued into the public Markit Registry accounts for 1 tonne of CO2 sequestered or reduced. This is an additional and long-term carbon benefit, assured through careful project design, monitoring, annual reporting and third party validation.

Plan Vivo has issued over 8.7 million certificates to date, working with over 1,292 communites, all of whom generate income from the sale of the certificates. The level of income is mandated by the standard (unlike any other standard). In total, Plan Vivo projects are underway on 274,000 hectares of land.

0.6 How are carbon removal credits monitored and tracked under Plan Vivo?

At the project level, the projects use innovative monitoring systems like Taking Root Technology Platform. This has been developed over 5 years by the project teams and shows the growth of trees and the payments made to people in the project in real time. This is state of the art impact monitoring, and it is being rolled out to other projects. 

At the standard level, which must verify and then issue the carbon credits, everything is used and are tracked publicly on the IHS Markit Environmental Registry to ensure full transparency and the full ‘retirement’ status of each Plan Vivo Certificate. Plan Vivo Certificates have the highest retirement rate of all major carbon standards, making them an exceptionally credible and effective way to compensate for your carbon footprint.

0.7 The C Level view on carbon offsetting your flight

In summary, as we start to ramp up flying again, we have to limit it, to think twice and choose a different cultural mindset. This carbon reduction is the overriding priority and at the heart of the new call for Net Zero as defined in the Oxford Principles for Net Zero Aligned Carbon Offsetting. 

And then we must offset every single flight, using C Level’s 3 carbon removal principles:

#Burntitbalanceit – using carbon removal as the only way to balance your historic footprint. The damage is done. But not using it to enable a ‘business as usual’ approach to work and life.

Additionality – the carbon removal project must be creating something new in the world, something of value that did not exist before. Remove through genuine projects, create genuine benefits, meet the criteria of additionality.

Holistic Action – Choose projects and people that explicitly take the most holistic approach possible. Look at the whole system and all the relationships created by the new project. Choose projects that harness the combined power of ecosystems and communities to create carbon removals. This is what we mean by being Carbon Balanced and what we offer through our new online Balance My Flight Carbon Calculator*.

* Your payment will directly empower indigenous communities to protect and reforest their land. This influx of money creates sustainable livelihoods while promoting urgent action on climate change. While Plan Vivo certificates are focussed on carbon reduction, they also deliver a wealth of other benefits from poverty reduction to education, improving watersheds and biodiversity conservation. This solution is far more comprehensive than planting single species forests on empty land. It represents the most balanced, holistic and intelligent solution to carbon sequestration in the world. Your investment covers the project costs, including project design, project implementation, verification, livelihood support and communications. Most European flights cost less than £10 to carbon balance, with most one-way international flights less than £20 for an economy seat. This is excellent value for sophisticated projects that can carbon balance your flight. We provide detailed annual reports on the substantial benefits and achievements created by the award-winning projects you invest in. In June 2019, Hadza Hunter Gatherers won the UN Equator Award.