Common examples of carbon offset projects are reforestation initiatives, biomass gasification plants, solar or wind farms, hydroelectric plants and landfill methane capture and utilisation projects. There are also programmes such as forest stewardship and rural home solar lighting projects that engage local communities in developing countries and equip them with income-generating skills while discouraging fuel-inefficient or heavily-polluting activities.
One relatively new but important carbon reduction technology is carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS), wherein CO2 from power plants and other industrial facilities are captured, compressed and injected into deep subsurface geological formations for indefinite isolation from the atmosphere.
Some projects are more singular and unique to local industry. At the Korat Waste-To-Energy (KWTE) project in Thailand, starchy tapioca processing wastewater is treated and used to generate methane gas that is used to substitute millions of litres of heavy fuel and avert the emission of 300,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.
Seedlings at a reforestation project in Indonesian Borneo. Replanting trees in degraded or illegally logged areas are a common form of long-term climate change mitigation activities that companies can fund through carbon offset purchases (photo credit: Corbis Images)
In northeastern China, the Tieling coal mine methane (CMM) capture project extracts CMM from six mines and turns the greenhouse gas into an energy source for homes and local industry.
Standards organisations for carbon reduction projects are careful to ensure credits are issued for measures that go beyond “business as usual”. In other words, the credits must not be for activities that would have gone on anyway regardless of climate change mitigation initiatives.
Well-assessed projects also do not cause other kinds of environmental harm while helping to reduce carbon emissions. For example, BP Target Neutral is careful to specify that its hydroelectric power project in China is a “run-of-river” system that diverts part of a river’s flow through electricity-generating turbines and then returns the water to the river downstream, minimising disruption to its course and the ecosystems that depend on it.
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