Projects

We have a portfolio of high-quality projects certified by Plan Vivo, Gold Standard and Fairtrade. We offer carbon offsetting in collaboration with local communities and with a focus on peoples’ livelihoods. Our projects contribute in several ways to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. Our projects are divided in to three categories, using the same definition of carbon offsetting as in ISO 14021.

Prevention

Preventing emissions through the preservation of forests. Projects are certified by Plan Vivo, VCS and CCB.

Reduction

Reduces emissions by implementing methods for low carbon energy production. Projects are certified by Gold standard and FairTrade.

Removal

Planted trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere through the process of sequestration. Projects certified by Plan Vivo.

Frequently asked questions

Carbon offsetting

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  • What is carbon offsetting?

    Carbon offsetting means that a certain amount of greenhouse gas emissions, measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), that cannot be reduced internally, is offset through measures outside the company’s own operations. This can be done by investing in renewable energy projects, energy efficiency solutions, tree planting or forest conservation projects.

     

    For a measure to be classified as carbon offsetting, it should be based on an internationally accepted certification standard. There are also criteria for carbon offset projects that are summarised as environmental integrity.

     

    Additionality: the climate benefit would not have happened without the carbon offset money invested in the project. Additionality is one of the most important criteria in the development and certification of a carbon offset project. Additionality is directly crucial for a project to have “environmental integrity” and for the financing of the project to lead to real emission reductions. The difficulty in assessing whether a project is additional is due to the fact that emission reductions occur all the time and for different reasons.

    Measurability: emission reductions shall be quantifiable through established and recognised measurement methods.

    Verifiability: the project must be periodically verified by a third party.

    Traceability: projects must be traceable, and the credits generated must be assigned unique numbers which are recorded and shredded in a public register.

    Permanence: carbon offsets should provide a permanent climate benefit, which means that emissions are not just delayed.

     

    There are many different standards that certify carbon offset projects, such as Plan Vivo, Gold Standard, VCS and Fairtrade Carbon Standard.

  • The history of carbon offsetting

    In the 1980s, trade was initiated through some not very transparent deals between environmental organisations and companies with a strong interest in environmental issues. A decade later, two international agreements were signed that would have an impact on the future. The withdrawal of the US from the Kyoto Protocol led to the creation of the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) in 2003. It became the world’s first large-scale platform for trading voluntary carbon offsets. Two years later, the EU launched its Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). Following these two events, the market for voluntary carbon offsets is gaining momentum. When carbon offset trading started, the US was both the largest buyer and the largest supplier of voluntary carbon offsets. One third of the credits were traded on the CCX, and the rest on one of the other independent trading venues. Project types were evenly split between land use, renewable energy, and industrial gases. Eventually, efficient cookstoves were also launched as carbon offsets.

  • Is carbon offset included in the Kyoto and Paris Agreements?

    The Kyoto Protocol, which was in force until 2020, included so-called flexible mechanisms for trading emission reductions between countries. A typical example has been carbon offset projects under the “Clean Development Mechanism” (CDM) regulated by the United Nations.

     

    Carbon offsets on the voluntary market, in which ZeroMission and our clients are active, are not regulated by the Kyoto Protocol, although CDM credits are also sold on the voluntary market. Voluntary standards for carbon offsets have been largely inspired by the CDM framework.

     

    The Paris Agreement was signed in December 2015 and came into force on 1 January 2021. A new scheme to replace the CDM is expected to be created under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which will hopefully be finalised during COP26 in Glasgow. Carbon offsets for companies and organisations will not be formally regulated by the Paris Agreement. As in the past, the voluntary market for carbon offsets is likely to develop alongside it to some extent.

  • Who offsets their emissions?

    Companies, organisations, and individuals offset their carbon emissions. Companies affected by emissions trading can offset, but it can also be a voluntary commitment made by companies or individuals. ZeroMission only works with companies and organisations.

  • Isn't carbon offsetting just a way to buy your way out?

    It could be, but that is not our experience. On the one hand, we work with companies that offset their carbon footprint while working responsibly to reduce their emissions. They are also prepared to voluntarily take a cost for doing so. Our clients sign a letter of intent with us committing to review and reduce their own direct impact. In addition, it has been shown that many customers use the offset cost as an internal environmental tax that accelerates the transition by improving investment calculations for emission reduction measures.

     

    Our latest survey on carbon offsetting shows that Swedes who offset are twice as likely to be actively working to reduce their climate impact (56%) compared to Swedes who do not offset (28%).

     

    All experience of environmental work shows that it is a dangerous line to take measures that are profile-enhancing but do not involve change.

  • Doesn't carbon offsetting hinder the transition to a sustainable and fossil-free society?

    This could be the case if we are content with offsetting only. It should not be seen in isolation, but as one measure among many. If it is the case that energy switching and other measures to reduce climate impact take time, then carbon offsetting is a powerful way to act today.

  • Does carbon offsetting lead to a reduction in climate impact?

    An interesting dynamic is that when companies receive a cost on their emissions through carbon offsets, this often leads to an acceleration of emission reductions. It has also been shown that when looking at companies that offset, they reduce their emissions more than those that do not offset.

  • Can you offset your carbon footprint through projects in Sweden or in your own operations?

    Carbon offset refers to a reduction in emissions or an uptake of greenhouse gases from activities outside of an organisation’s own operations and outside Sweden’s borders. An important reason why carbon offsetting takes place outside Sweden is that the measure/project must be demonstrated to be “additional”, which is not possible within Sweden’s borders as we as a country and as part of the EU emissions trading system have an emissions cap. In addition, it would go against one of the principles behind carbon offsetting, i.e., the intention to get to the cheapest climate measures first, which provides cost-effectiveness. Climate projects within a company in Sweden, however they are financed, are appropriately referred to as efficiency projects or climate projects to avoid misunderstandings.

  • Is carbon offsetting tax deductible?

    The debate on the deductibility of costs related to carbon offsets has been ongoing in the government since the Supreme Administrative Court’s ruling against Saltå Kvarn in 2014, when they were denied the right to deduct their carbon offsetting costs. In June 2018, 4 years later, our client Arla won their appeal  against the Supreme Administrative Court regarding the right to deduct costs for their carbon offsets. This is of course good news for all companies that buy carbon offsets on a voluntary basis. While this is good news, it is also important to consider the details of the ruling, as the Supreme Administrative Court says that whether the expenses should be considered deductible depends on the circumstances of the individual case. The Supreme Administrative Court has interpreted Arla’s carbon offsetting costs as a marketing cost, which is the basis for the ruling.

     

    We do not yet know exactly how this ruling will affect the Swedish Tax Agency’s carbon offset practices. But one can at least imagine that companies that use carbon offsetting in a similar way to Arla can expect to be entitled to a deduction. We recommend that our customers communicate that they are carbon offsetting and make an open claim in their tax return to avoid any tax penalties. And we keep our fingers crossed that the Tax Agency will make assessments in the future that are in our customers’ favour.

  • How does ZeroMission choose projects?

    Our vision is to deliver planetary benefits, which also guides our choice of carbon offset projects. Since our inception, we have strived to offer our clients small-scale holistic projects with strong local roots and which, in addition to climate benefits, provide significant environmental and social added value. For this reason, we offer carbon offsets according to the following criteria:

     

    • Projects should be well anchored among local stakeholders and project participants.
    • Projects should have a high degree of additionality, i.e., we want to know that our customers’ money makes a difference.
    • Projects must deliver verified and long-term climate benefits.
    • Projects should make a clear contribution to social sustainability, such as improving people’s quality of life and health, creating new jobs, knowledge, and technology transfer.

     

    The standards we have chosen to work with are Plan Vivo for tree and forestry projects, and the Fairtrade Climate Standard and Gold Standard for renewable energy projects. We have chosen these standards because they contain clear requirements for social and ecological sustainability. The standards are important, but it is even more important to get to know the specific project. That is why we carry out an evaluation and supplier assessment of each new project according to our criteria, followed by continuous monitoring and project visits.

Forestry project

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  • Isn't it better to plant trees in Sweden?

    Carbon offsets are based on rigorous systems with multi-tiered verification and auditing. The voluntary carbon offset market started in the mid-1990s with Plan Vivo as the first standard and gained momentum in the late 2000s. Climate benefits are certified by different standards whose common criteria are that the emission reduction/climate benefit should be calculated, measured, traceable, third-party verified and additional. The last criterion means that the project would not have happened without funding from the carbon offset. In Sweden today there is no certified carbon offset project. Perhaps this will change in the future.

     

    Another principle of carbon offsetting is that the most effective place to plant trees is in the tropics. Here, trees grow fast and absorb carbon quickly. Well-designed tree projects can also help alleviate poverty in low-income regions, conserve biodiversity and support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 1 (no poverty), Goal 6 (clean water), Goal 11 (sustainable communities), Goal 13 (climate action) and Goal 15 (life on land).

  • What does the Plan Vivo certification mean?

    The tree planting and forest conservation projects ZeroMission works with are certified according to the Plan Vivo standard and are based on an ambitious multi-stage audit and verification system.

     

    The Plan Vivo standard includes rules on carbon sequestration and emission reduction monitoring and ensures socially and ecologically sustainable development of smallholders and natural areas. Validation and certification are carried out in collaboration with independent verification bodies such as the Rainforest Alliance and projects are regularly audited. Plan Vivo is used in many parts of the world and is supported by many environmental and advocacy organisations.

  • What does Ex-ante mean?

    The majority of carbon offset projects on the voluntary market are of the Ex-post type, i.e., the climate benefit from an emission reduction (or activity) has been calculated and verified after it has taken place. Plan Vivo’s tree planting projects have a different type of crediting mechanism called Ex-ante, which means that the climate benefit has been estimated before it has occurred. The climate benefit then occurs gradually over time as the tree grows and is fully achieved after about 20-30 years depending on the type of tree, vegetation, and climate. The reason why Plan Vivo applies Ex-ante crediting in tree planting projects is simply to enable the project activity to be carried out. The projects conclude contracts with small-scale landowners who are unable to finance the tree planting with their own resources. Ex-ante crediting provides the landowner with up-front funding to carry out the tree planting when the alternative of paying the landowner Ex-post would not have made the activity possible. As with many aspects of the quality of a carbon offset project, it is often a matter of trade-offs. For Plan Vivo’s tree planting project, Ex-ante crediting is a precondition for the project activity to be implemented and thus maximises additionality, i.e., it would not have been implemented without carbon offset funding.

     

    At the same time, there is a risk that the climate benefits may be less than estimated or not achieved at all if project activities do not go as planned. Plan Vivo addresses this risk in several steps:

     

    • The project activity is designed in cooperation with and on the land of small-scale landowners with regular monitoring and support from the local project organisation.
    • The project activity is designed to generate economic added value over and above the financing from carbon offsets of the planting of the trees, for example when the trees are thinned.
    • Conservative calculation methodologies are applied to ensure that climate benefits are not overestimated.
    • Plan Vivo applies a risk buffer where 10-20% of the climate benefits from all projects are allocated to compensate for unpredictable events, such as forest fires.
  • Does tree planting have any environmental impact?

    The aim of ZeroMission’s projects is to improve the environment as a whole, not just the climate. Our forestry projects aim to contribute to a positive environmental impact. Not only through carbon sequestration, but also by combating soil erosion, contributing to improved water circulation, increased ecological resilience and biodiversity. As local people gain access to timber and firewood through tree planting, the pressure on the natural forests, where they previously took what they needed, is reduced. There are examples of tree plantations with negative environmental impacts, such as monoculture plantations of eucalyptus. ZeroMission do not work with that type of tree planting.

  • Why should I offset for climate change by planting trees?

    Voluntary trading of credits from forestry projects (reforestation and preservation) is a very common type of voluntary carbon offset in the world. Planting trees and combating deforestation is one of the most effective methods available for carbon offsetting, both in terms of reducing emissions and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Deforestation is the second largest source of emissions, but trees actually play an invaluable role as carbon sinks.

     

    Trees are also seen as a good communicative alternative, not least because the tree itself as a symbol is powerful. Many companies also see the co-benefits of tree planting projects and their contribution to climate adaptation as being at least as important as their emission reduction qualities.

     

    Agriculture is the main cause of climate-induced deforestation and land-use change. That’s why tree planting is an attractive option for many of our food customers as it can easily be linked to products. For companies whose main sources of emissions are fossil fuels, it may be appropriate to consider offsetting all or part of their carbon emissions through a renewable energy project instead, as this better addresses the problem of fossil fuels.

  • Is there any criticism of tree planting as a method?

    There are criticisms related to the permanence of climate benefits in forest projects. Such arguments are best addressed by the experience that now exists, in the case of Plan Vivo since 1994, which proves that the projects work. Some argue that energy projects are a better form of offsetting than forestry projects because of a higher degree of permanence, but ZeroMission argues that this is not the case. Unfortunately, almost none of the world’s most attractive climate actions, including renewable energy and forest conservation, provide a “guaranteed” climate benefit whether we implement them at home or abroad. That does not make them any less important. However, our certifications allow us to speak with a high degree of certainty when making climate benefit commitments to projects.

  • Is it important to plant trees to sequester carbon dioxide?

    Forests absorb and sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But when trees are cut or burned, this carbon dioxide is released again. Today, huge tracts of forest are being cut down around the world at a very high rate (1-2% are lost each year). As a result, nearly a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the felling of tropical forests.

     

    The IPCC’s Climate Change and Land report stresses the importance of planting forests to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. They present different scenarios for how the world can keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. To succeed, emissions need to be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. All scenarios call for a combination of emission reductions as well as negative emissions, i.e., sequestering already emitted greenhouse gases from the atmosphere through, for example, reforestation.

     

    Deforestation is also the biggest threat to biodiversity. Many natural forests are disappearing because of the demand for wood and timber. ZeroMission’s tree planting reduces pressure on natural forests. A study called The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) estimates the cost of deforestation at up to $3 trillion. There is therefore great economic value in combating deforestation. Improving soil and forest management is also key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals according to the UN’s agricultural agency, and our Plan Vivo projects are often highlighted as a good tool in this context.

  • How many trees do you have to plant?

    It is difficult to relate a given number of emissions, e.g., one tonne of carbon dioxide, to a given number of trees planted, as some of the trees planted will be thinned out to make room for others to grow. Another difficulty is that an average mature tree contains different amounts of carbon, ranging from around 100-500 kg of carbon which is equivalent to 400-2000 kg of carbon dioxide. This variation is very large because different trees grow at different rates and grow to different sizes. When planting takes place, a land-use plan is drawn up, deciding which tree species to include. Carbon sequestration is then calculated and monitored annually.

  • Can geologically stored carbon from the long carbon cycle be compensated by tree planting from the short carbon cycle?

    The issue lies in the concept of the word “compensate”. The word compensation can give the impression of equivalence, that one gives the same or has exactly the same properties as the other. It further leads to the conclusion that it does not matter whether emissions are reduced or whether they are climate compensated as the result is the same. According to this interpretation of the concept of climate compensation, the answer is no, tree planting cannot compensate for emissions of fossilised carbon as carbon sinks are of different types and have different characteristics. Fossilised carbon will remain in the soil unless humans actively pump it up, while carbon sequestered in forests and soils risks returning as carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in unpredictable events such as forest fires. Once in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide atoms emitted from fossil sources have the same effect as emissions from biogenic sources.

     

    However, once the emissions have taken place and the carbon dioxide atoms have reached the atmosphere, the question becomes another; how can companies most effectively take responsibility for and sequester the emissions that have been made?

     

    According to the IPCC, natural climate solutions are one of the most effective and robust ways to mitigate climate change while creating and enhancing ecosystem services that benefit both communities and biodiversity (IPCC, Special report on climate change and land, 2019). Natural climate solutions have the potential to deliver over a third of the emissions reductions needed to stabilise warming well below 2 degrees in a cost-effective manner. Despite this potential, only about 2% of climate finance is directed towards natural climate solutions.

  • Does tree planting work as carbon offset and to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere?

    Planting trees and discouraging deforestation is one of the most effective ways of offsetting climate change, both by reducing emissions and by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As trees grow, carbon taken from the atmosphere is sequestered through photosynthesis.

     

    To have the intended effect, a number of conditions should be met, e.g., that the tree planting would not have taken place in any case. This excludes tree planting in Sweden where there is a law on replanting after harvesting. Another condition is that the forest stand remains and forms an area that sequesters carbon dioxide in the long term. Each tree has a limited lifespan. When a tree is felled, it must be replanted.

     

    The projects supported by ZeroMission are in partnership with local farmers who, by being involved in these carbon offset programmes, receive funding, training and technical assistance to enable them to make a living from their own land.

  • How do you know that the trees that are planted are not cut down?

    If the tree plantations are certified, as is the case with the Plan Vivo projects that ZeroMission works with, carbon sequestration is checked annually, long-term agreements are signed with smallholders and the plantations are regularly audited. This certified approach means that the plantation will become part of the household of the local population. The trees will be felled when they have grown, but it is important that a new one is replanted. The sale of timber and building materials provides farmers with an additional income. Fruit trees are often included and wood for fuel is taken from fast-growing species. This increases respect for the trees. When trees die or are felled, they are replanted. Thinning is done to promote the growth of the whole plantation area. Farmers are paid for this work. However, there is no guarantee that the trees will remain. Fires can occur, as can war situations, which prevent management and maintenance. In such situations, there is a buffer, both within the individual projects and within the overall Plan Vivo system, to compensate for the possible loss.

     

    The ultimate goal of Plan Vivo and the projects is for local people to come to a point where it is taken for granted that forest stands are most valuable when they remain standing and generate yields of firewood, timber, fruit and other ecosystem services. Replanting then becomes a matter of course whenever logging takes place. This goal is met relatively quickly in our carbon offset projects and is the biggest long-term guarantee that the forest will remain standing and that the projects will deliver the promised climate benefits. The success of this approach is illustrated by the oldest Plan Vivo project in Mexico, Scolel’Te, which has been running since 1994 and is still thriving today.

  • What is Nature-based solutions?

    Nature-based Solutions is defined by IUCN as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”.

Energy projects

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  • Do energy projects provide more than carbon offsets?

    All ZeroMission’s energy projects make a positive contribution to sustainable development in its geographical area. Both ecological and social qualities must be included. These may include the reduction of air pollution, health aspects and water pollution, improved living standards, new jobs or the transfer of knowledge and technology. Projects certified by the Gold Standard and Fairtrade meet these environmental and social requirements.

  • Why are Gold Standard and Fairtrade certifications good?

    The Gold Standard and Fairtrade Climate Standard set requirements that, in addition to the usual CDM requirements, set the bar high in terms of the degree of local ownership, additionality and contribution to sustainable development. Projects have been limited to the areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency, but now also include forestry projects. Projects that are certified under both the CDM and the Gold Standard or Fairtrade are often more expensive than those certified under only one standard. Costs include the assurance of the contribution to sustainable development, which is ensured through extensive information and consultation with the local population.

  • How do I know that my investment is doing good?

    Anyone who buys reduction units (VERs or CERs) through ZeroMission is helping to make a project happen and succeed. This is called additionality and is a requirement for all projects. Additionality is tested in various ways during project development using standardised tools. Among other things, the project’s profitability is examined with and without carbon offsetting.

     

    Another way to test additionality is to see if there are other societal or structural barriers that make it likely that the project would not have come about without carbon offsets. Projects that are deemed not to be feasible without carbon offsets for the above reasons are deemed to be additional. If, on the contrary, the project is judged to be viable without credits and/or there are no barriers, the project is not additional and is therefore not approved.

  • Is there a verification that makes sure that a project keeps its promises over time?

    There is a regular inspection of the projects by independent organisations. This is done by UN-accredited organisations such as SGS, TÜV or DNV and continues throughout the life of the project.

Make a difference

In order to reach the 1.5-degree global warming target we need to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester CO2 that is already in the atmosphere.

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