The complete picture behind carbon offsetting

It was seeing Al Gore in 2006 as he promoted his documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, when the penny dropped for Kent Broad to take action against global warming.

The former US Vice President’s acclaimed and detailed explanation for how man-made carbon emissions are causing damage to the world’s environment left Kent feeling compelled to join the fight against climate change.

So much so, Kent is now the Director of Business Development at Carbon Neutral – an organisation with a sprawling 12,000ha forest of biodiverse trees in Western Australia that’s absorbing carbon dioxide out of the air, storing carbon in the biomass (the living trees) and sending oxygen back into the atmosphere.

Destined to do the right thing for the environment.

Born and raised on the land west of the Nullarbor, Kent witnessed first-hand in his early years the impact tree-clearing can have on local environments.

“I recognised a long time ago that we’ve actually over-cleared the Australian outback,” he says. “It’s semi-arid, it’s a brittle environment.

In the Western Australian Shires that Carbon Neutral works in, Kent estimates that as much as 90-95 per cent of the bush has been wiped out by land clearing. That’s leading to a raft of environmental problems and concerns – from salt, wind and water erosion, to the loss of biodiversity in flora and fauna – occurring in one of the world’s 35 biodiversity hot-spots.

It’s knowing this that makes these reforestation initiatives being undertaking by Carbon Neutral – the main partner in AGL’s Future Forests program – so vital.

“The remnant vegetation has been there since the age of time – we’re trying to put back what was there before,” Kent says. “By getting paid to grow carbon, if you like, we’re also restoring the environment to what it was.”

Carbon emissions explained.

Worried that some Aussies aren’t across how carbon emissions contribute to climate change, Kent explains them in simple terms.

“Every time we use an appliance, we drive a car or we catch a flight, fossil fuels are burned and the carbon from those fossil fuels end up in the atmosphere in the form of Co2 (carbon dioxide),” he says.

“It is one of five greenhouse gas emissions (along with water vapour, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone) that we have recognised are detrimental to the planet, causing global warming or climate change.”

David Shelmerdine, Gold Standard (left), and Kent Broad, Carbon Neutral, at the reforestation site in Western Australia.
The story behind carbon offsetting.

What’s the most effective way of offsetting carbon emissions? By not producing them in the first place. That’s done by finding emission-free alternatives, like walking or riding a bike to the supermarket instead of driving a car.

But when Co2 emissions are unavoidable, carbon offsetting can otherwise be achieved by supporting the natural-occurring process of photosynthesis, where carbon is locked into trees and the waste product is oxygen.

At Carbon Neutral’s 12,000ha plantation – the first and only project in Australia to be given Gold Standard certification – every hectare of the forest is allocated a number of Voluntary Emission Reduction units (VERs) each year, with each unit equating to one tonne of Co2.

These VERs are then sold to businesses and individuals who want to offset their carbon emissions, which is what AGL’s Future Forests initiative is offering Australians today.

Sustainability that costs just $1 per week

Nations across the globe are now embracing sustainability after waking up to fact that carbon emissions are having a real impact on our shared planet’s climate and environment.

Since the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, almost 200 countries which signed up to the Paris Agreement have set legally-binding dates to cut their carbon emissions. Here in Australia, the Commonwealth Government has committed to reduce our country’s share by 26-28 per cent based on 2005 levels by 2030.

But AGL’s Future Forests program is helping Aussie households offset all of the emissions associated with their electricity usage for just $1 a week, by contributing to Carbon Neutral’s reforestation initiatives in WA.

“Every time we plant a tree, or a hectare of trees, we know exactly how much carbon is going to be stored,” he says. “In our case that is for 100 years, more than a lifetime.”

Each and every cent that AGL customers pay to the Future Forests initiative goes towards the incredible work being undertaken by Kent Broad and the team at Carbon Neutral.

Future Forests