Posted: August 28, 2023

Co-Benefits of Carbon Offsets: An Overview

The benefits provided by the best of carbon offset projects extend far beyond reducing carbon dioxide emissions. They also deliver additional benefits — known as co-benefits — that play a crucial role in creating a sustainable and impactful future.

What are Co-Benefits of Carbon Offsets?

Co-benefits of carbon offsets are the incremental benefits that arise from carbon projects, in addition to direct emissions reduction. They encompass environmental, social, and economic benefits, and will vary based on the specific project.

The 3 Main Types of Co-Benefits

Co-benefits are generally aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. What we at Catona Climate identify as the three major types of co-benefits — environmental, social, and economic — all serve these goals in their own ways.

Environmental co-benefits might include improving air quality, protecting biodiversity, or providing other ecosystem services. For example, a reforestation project can provide several co-benefits beyond the carbon sequestered: providing wildlife habitats, for instance, or improving the ecosystem's health. These environmental benefits are critically vital given that estimates show the world lost two-thirds of its wildlife over the past 50 years. The impact of such a loss ripples far beyond individual ecosystems, as nature’s decline poses a risk to more than half of global GDP.

Social co-benefits might include benefits to vulnerable groups, local communities, or marginalized members within those communities. Take renewable energy projects: they reduce air pollution, which leads to improved health outcomes. Some projects may generate education or vocational opportunities. They can also enhance the quality of life for local residents through improved technology (as in the case of clean cookstoves, for example).

Economic co-benefits might include employment opportunities, improved local infrastructure, or access to new markets or revenue streams. For example, sustainable agriculture projects often bring many benefits such as increasing crop yields and improving soil health — creating economic opportunities for local farmers. Or in the case of Tobias Omondi, one of thousands of Kenyan smallholder farmers reaping the benefits of our agroforestry project in partnership with Trees for the Future, they can generate steady income from their land tvia carbon project financing.

Our Approach to Co-Benefits

The primary goal of any carbon offset project is to remove or reduce CO2 emissions, but the additional benefits that a project provides can make it more impactful and sustainable in the long run.

Projects with strong co-benefits provide value to a wider range of stakeholders and are more likely to be supported by the local communities — who are vitally important in the success of these projects.

That’s why we've incorporated the importance of co-benefits into our own project evaluation process. Projects that don’t produce significant co-benefits don't meet our standards, and therefore won’t be included in the project portfolio that supplies carbon credits for our enterprise clients.

We work closely with our partners to identify projects that provide a wide range of meaningful co-benefits, and prioritize those that have the greatest potential to make a positive impact.If you’re ready to discuss partnering with Catona Climate to achieve your net zero goals — while driving broader environmental, social, and economic impact at the same time — get in touch with our carbon experts.

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