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kassy

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Net-Zero plans and the hard limits of carbon offsets
« on: March 24, 2021, 01:44:33 PM »
Big Oil’s Net-Zero Plans Show the Hard Limits of Carbon Offsets

If you can’t pay the interest on your debts, an IOU isn’t going to be enough to save you from bankruptcy.

That’s the problem with the succession of net zero commitments emerging from companies and governments. The carbon emissions generated by our current industrial and agricultural systems are going to lead to a disaster far worse than insolvency without vigorous efforts to reduce them. If promises to offset them with carbon-absorbing activities are to be worth anything, they’re going to need to be more than aspirational words on paper.

Take Royal Dutch Shell Plc. It was the first oil major to make a commitment to cutting the emissions from its customers — known as “Scope 3 emissions” —  making it one of the most progressive oil companies on climate.

That was 2017.  Last month, Shell set out its latest plan to get to net zero. The big reveal left climate experts mostly unimpressed, in part because the company plans to increase its total fossil fuel output in the near term by boosting gas production, and the majority of its capital expenditure will continue to go towards oil and gas. To get to net zero while doing that, it plans to capture 120 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year via “nature-based” offsets by 2030.

Days after Shell’s announcement, Italian oil company Eni SpA updated its own net-zero strategy. A Greenpeace UK study of its earlier 2019 pledge to use forest conservation to offset its emissions said such a promise would have to account for as much as 6% of the world’s capacity to absorb carbon in forest land. Eni’s update increased its 2030 forestry offset target by a third, to 40 million tons of CO2 per year.

Plenty of other companies and governments have jumped on the bandwagon. A tracking project from American University lists dozens of large companies that, as of December 21, cited carbon dioxide-removal (CDR) in their pledges for climate neutrality. They include Apple Inc., Walmart Inc., British Airways Plc, and many of their peers. It’s not just companies. The European Union’s promise to cut emissions 55% by 2030 has been criticized for relying in part on land-based “carbon sinks” to soak up some of the pollution.

As more companies follow suit, the total volume of offsets they rely on will quickly exceed the ability of the planet to provide them. Without more concrete near-term actions, “net zero” risks becoming a fairytale providing cover for the heavy emitting industries, particularly those in the fossil fuel sector who have aggressively blocked climate action.

...

There’s work underway to impose more rigor on the flurry of aspirational pledges. The Science-Based Targets initiative, the closest thing to an arbiter of emissions reductions plans for companies, is aiming to release guidance on net zero ahead of the COP26 climate conference in November. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which has been developing standards for measuring and managing emissions since 1998, plans to publish final guidance on negative emissions by next October.

One popular proposal suggests having each net-zero pledge break out how much will come from actually reducing emissions, versus the portion of emissions the company or government assumes it will offset.

That would be welcome, but also doesn’t necessarily give enough useful information on ambition, as Stephen Smith, executive director of the Oxford Net Zero initiative, argued in a recent comment in Nature Communications Earth & Environment. What would be more helpful, he writes, is information on three things: how CDR will be achieved, how emissions will be kept permanently out of the atmosphere, and near-term targets.

https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/big-oil-s-net-zero-plans-show-the-hard-limits-of-carbon-offsets-1.1570273

So exhibit A since it is everyone´s favorite solution we are already running out of budget (and also all the trees we plant now will be 10 by then so that is a smallish gain).
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kassy

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Re: Net-Zero plans and the hard limits of carbon offsets
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2021, 01:50:13 PM »
The question of whether carbon offsets actually help in the transition to a net zero economy is a thorny one for many companies. The recent Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets, set up by Mark Carney, says there is a role for carbon offsets (see our recent interview with Alex Hanafi of the Environmental Defense Fund).

But many researchers insist that offsets don’t actually reduce carbon emissions and could make it harder to achieve a fully decarbonized economy. Kate Dooley is a research fellow at the University of Melbourne who studies the impact of carbon accounting, including offsets.

DOOLEY: My work looks at whether or not offsets in carbon trading are actually doing anything to mitigate climate change, because if these aren’t helping us to reduce emissions, then we’re just moving deck chairs on the Titanic.

For various reasons, carbon offsets tend to primarily focus on forest offsets, forest and land. And that’s where the real problem is, because continuing to dig up and burn fossil fuels and emitting fossil fuel emissions into the atmosphere, and then removing these by growing forests doesn’t actually reduce atmospheric emissions or atmospheric concentrations over a century-long time scale.

The Fast and the Slow Carbon Cycle
Half of what we emit gets taken up by natural systems — the land and ocean carbon sinks. But these are known as the “fast” carbon cycle, as carbon cycles continuously between the atmosphere, ocean and land. When we take up extra carbon through the planting of trees, it stays in the fast carbon cycle, cycling back into the atmosphere. But it doesn’t return to geological storage on time scales relevant to humans — the process of carbon moving from the fast carbon cycle to the effectively permanent geological (fossil fuel) reserves doesn’t happen in anything less than a millennia.

So what we’re doing when we burn fossil fuels is adding emissions to the carbon cycle in aggregate. Then, when we pull carbon into trees, it’s still in the carbon cycle and has not been fully eliminated.

BRINK: Can you explain what is meant by the carbon cycle — why is it that this lasts only a relatively short time?

DOOLEY: The simple answer is that trees (like all living things) die and their carbon is returned to the atmosphere. It’s not really as simple as that, because forests can live for centuries, but it’s a much shorter time than carbon needs to be stored if it is to properly compensate for the release of fossil emissions, the majority of which stay in the atmosphere for over 1,000 years.

The Problem of Permanence
This is referred to as permanence, which is a time scale issue: When we plant more trees, we can’t guarantee that we’ve taken this carbon up for 1,000 years. The carbon cycle of trees is cycling on years and decades, whereas geological reservoirs are essentially permanent.

Additionally, burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide emissions immediately; growing trees to remove these emissions takes many decades, during which time carbon dioxide continues to accumulate in the atmosphere, causing warming.

BRINK: Given what you have just laid out, can you conceive of a carbon offset that would actually reduce the net amount of carbon in the atmosphere?

DOOLEY: Carbon offsetting is not really designed to reduce the net amount of emissions in the atmosphere — it’s designed to not increase the amount of emissions in the atmosphere. Offsetting essentially means for every ton we remove, we emit a ton somewhere else.

...

https://www.brinknews.com/carbon-offsets-do-not-reduce-carbon-emissions-only-delay-them/

Exhibit B: It actually does not help that much.
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kassy

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Re: Net-Zero plans and the hard limits of carbon offsets
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2021, 01:56:16 PM »
So of course the actual reductions we need is reducing actual emissions, not BS pledges.

Any carbon reduction proposal by companies using offsets should also set out a reduction towards zero overall compliant with the Paris goals.
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Bruce Steele

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Re: Net-Zero plans and the hard limits of carbon offsets
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2021, 10:33:21 PM »
Thanks Kassy, The permanence issue of forest carbon offsets has always bothered me. I think of carbon in the carbonate sink as permanence when it settles on the continental shelf and fast cycle carbon when it dissolves below the saturation horizon. The forest carbon cycle is much faster than dissolved CO2 in the deep oceans and that doesn’t seem like a good place to put it because a thousand years doesn’t seem long enough to me either. 
 
 

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Re: Net-Zero plans and the hard limits of carbon offsets
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2021, 11:18:22 PM »
I assumed emission calculations assumed we kept the forests we have not that we removed them all. It seems like double counting to me.

gerontocrat

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Re: Net-Zero plans and the hard limits of carbon offsets
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2021, 11:41:02 PM »
So of course the actual reductions we need is reducing actual emissions, not BS pledges.

Offsets, vague pledges, blah blah, meanwhile the big banks' support to fossil fuel companies, if anything, accelerates.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/24/big-banks-trillion-dollar-finance-for-fossil-fuels-shocking-says-report
Coal, oil and gas firms have received $3.8tn in finance since the Paris climate deal in 2015
Quote
The world’s biggest 60 banks have provided $3.8tn of financing for fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal in 2015, according to a report by a coalition of NGOs.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic cutting energy use, overall funding remains on an upward trend and the finance provided in 2020 was higher than in 2016 or 2017, a fact the report’s authors and others described as “shocking”.

Oil, gas and coal will need to be burned for some years to come. But it has been known since at least 2015 that a significant proportion of existing reserves must remain in the ground if global heating is to remain below 2C, the main Paris target. Financing for new reserves is therefore the “exact opposite” of what is required to tackle the climate crisis, the report’s authors said.

US and Canadian banks make up 13 of the 60 banks analysed, but account for almost half of global fossil fuel financing over the last five years, the report found. JPMorgan Chase provided more finance than any other bank. UK bank Barclays provided the most fossil fuel financing among all European banks and French bank BNP Paribas was the biggest in the EU.

Overall financing dipped by 9% in pandemic-hit 2020, but funding for the 100 fossil fuel companies with the biggest expansion plans actually rose by 10%. Citi was the biggest financier of these 100 companies in 2020.

A commitment to be net zero by 2050 has been made by 17 of the 60 banks, but the report describes the pledges as “dangerously weak, half-baked, or vague”, arguing that action is needed today. Some banks have policies that block finance for coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, but almost two-thirds of funding is for oil and gas companies.

The last 2 images are from the IEA. as is this quote..

Quote
Clean energy investment has been relatively resilient in the downturn, but a flat trend of spending since 2015 is far from enough to bring a lasting reduction in emissions
[/size]

click images to enlarge
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KiwiGriff

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Re: Net-Zero plans and the hard limits of carbon offsets
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2021, 07:09:40 AM »
Well worth a watch.

Rethinking Energy — The Great Stranding: How Inaccurate Mainstream LCOE Estimates are Creating a Trillion-Dollar Bubble in Conventional Energy Assets.



I know it does not quite fit here.
But am not sure where to place it to get the most attention from those who should be thinking about this .

Animals can be driven crazy by placing too many in too small a pen. Homo sapiens is the only animal that voluntarily does this to himself.
Notebooks of Lazarus Long.
Robert Heinlein.

Iain

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Re: Net-Zero plans and the hard limits of carbon offsets
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2021, 10:56:15 AM »
Lesson to be learned here, beware of arguments which start with an unfair comparison then witter on for 18 mins with non applicable comparisons and analogies, hoping you didn’t spot the unfair comparison.

Did you spot it?

Dispatchable vs Renewable + 4 hours of storage

If it was dispatchable vs Renewable + whole winter season of storage in batteries it would be totally different.

See the Hydrogen Economy thread – discussion around repurposing the existing gas grid and depleted gas fields for long term storage of H2
"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton

kassy

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Re: Net-Zero plans and the hard limits of carbon offsets
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2021, 04:24:12 PM »
The problem is simple:

1) We emit way too much carbon.
2) To get that to zero we should limit the production of that ensure our increase is zero then decrease it ASAP.
3) All the trees we plant as offsets only displace the problem a bit in time as long as our overall emissions do not decrease.

PS: last two posts seem off topic (not about offsets) so pursue on another thread.
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Iain

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Re: Net-Zero plans and the hard limits of carbon offsets
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2021, 05:44:36 PM »
Given non dispatchable renewables (except Hydro, though there will not be enough of it) and variable demand, heavily skewed to winter use, closer to a need in the case of space heating,  to get to net zero involves transition from FFs to renewables, which requires a mix of:

Overcapacity of renewables – wind, PV

Offsets which work long term – build with wood, not concrete. The nearly-all-wood, five story Horyu-ji temple in Ikaruga, Japan is 1414 years old

Very Large scale seasonal storage, that’s where H2 storage is relevant to net zero

NB Production and emission are different – e.g. stripping produced methane for it’s hydrogen and storing the CO2 has no CO2 emissions
"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton

Iain

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Re: Net-Zero plans and the hard limits of carbon offsets
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2021, 11:02:56 PM »

ref #1
"trees (like all living things) die and their carbon is returned to the atmosphere"

Not true of the vast majority of trees in the UK which are used for construction (OK, some for paper, but that's on the decline)

It's a carbon sequestration programme with houses as a byproduct which has been running for 100 years+

https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/statistics/statistics-by-topic/timber-statistics/uk-wood-production-and-trade-provisional-figures/
NB "Green" means newly cut living timber in teh ref.

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gerontocrat

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Re: Net-Zero plans and the hard limits of carbon offsets
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2021, 11:34:00 PM »

ref #1
"trees (like all living things) die and their carbon is returned to the atmosphere"

Carbon in the soil is, I understand 3 times the amount of carbon in living plants.

In forests, trees die and the carbon goes into the ground. New farming techniques based on natural processes seek to increase the carbon content of the soil.

In the tundra of parts of Siberia are carbon rich deposits of organic matter built up over many thousands of years of plant growth in several inter-glacial periods.

In Africa. e.g. the Congo are forests on top of immensely thick peat from dead plant life.

Every lump of coal is the remains of plant life buried for up to several hundred million years

I don't understand the quote.
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kassy

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Re: Net-Zero plans and the hard limits of carbon offsets
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2021, 06:03:32 PM »
https://phys.org/news/2021-04-trees-world-offset-society-carbon.html

...

Plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, transforming it into leaves, wood and roots. This everyday miracle has spurred hopes that plants—particularly fast growing tropical trees—can act as a natural brake on climate change, capturing much of the CO2 emitted by fossil fuel burning. Across the world, governments, companies and conservation charities have pledged to conserve or plant massive numbers of trees.

But the fact is that there aren't enough trees to offset society's carbon emissions—and there never will be. I recently conducted a review of the available scientific literature to assess how much carbon forests could feasibly absorb. If we absolutely maximized the amount of vegetation all land on Earth could hold, we'd sequester enough carbon to offset about ten years of greenhouse gas emissions at current rates. After that, there could be no further increase in carbon capture.

https://phys.org/news/2021-04-trees-world-offset-society-carbon.html

Article is long and detailed but this is the crux. We cannot compensate our stupidity with trees.

To go net zero you stop emitting.
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