Plastic Footprint Part II: Mitigation Metrics That Matter

Plastic Footprint Part II: Mitigation Metrics That Matter

Plastic Footprint Part II: Mitigation Metrics That Matter

The critical connection between plastic mitigation and corporate leadership

by: Leticia Socal | May 24, 2023


Part I of this blog series showcased the benefits of executing a baseline plastic footprint analysis. Now it is time to understand that the risks at stake are equally valuable.

Part II outlines the key metrics corporate leadership will find interesting when planning and budgeting for their plastic mitigation strategy. Once the scope and execution of a plastic footprint has been mapped, planning internal buy-in to implement mitigation actions is essential. Acting now is vital for corporations due to timely institutional changes and because circular plastic is still in its pioneer stage. Early and effective action will establish participants at the forefront of development and influence acceptance in the circular economy.

Costs of Non-Involvement?

Although variable and obscure, the costs of opting out of a plastic survey is risky and can be detrimental in its ever-changing landscape. According to The Minderoo Foundation, conservative, near-term (2022-2030) estimates of corporate plastic liability (US only) land at around $20 billion. This liability estimates ranges from bodily injury, property damage, and loss of shareholder value. And it’s not limited to the cost of liability from “misleading consumer statements” and greenwashing, expected to be penalized with “significant fines and sanctions.” [1]

Beyond liability, operational costs are considerable as well. A study by Pew Trust foresees companies operating at business-as-usual in the 2040s accruing $100 billion in virgin plastic taxes and/or responsible disposal fees with extended producer responsibilities (EPR) [2].

Comparatively, companies that chose to act today towards reducing their plastic impact and building a solid baseline would incur a fraction (~0.5%) of the costs of greenwashing litigation or an EPR non-compliance fee. Familiarizing leadership with this topic’s go-to advisory policymakers, insurers, investors, and corporate leadership would be wise to add to your to-do list.

The intangible costs are also notable, as seen in Part I of this series. Refusing to collect sustainability data on your products’ life cycle and overall footprint excludes vital product information from your operation—closing doors on opportunities to expand consumer messaging, innovate product design, diversify market offerings, and differentiate from the competition. Without knowledge, there is little to prepare for – plastic footprinting is a unique approach to understanding potential supply chain vulnerabilities (i.e., deforestation on ingredient plantations) and exposure to public criticism (political opinion on local vs. international labor).

Is the Market Demanding More Sustainable Products?

Making operational changes can be disruptive, laborious, and expensive. If cash flow is suffering, it’s easier to justify implementing product changes that take away time and energy from sales. Business owners typically want low-risk and high ROI. Fortunately, the data highlighting the impacts of performing an analysis or “pedicure” on your products and/or business is positive. A 5-year study by NYU showed that sustainability marketed products grew more than seven times faster than their conventional counterparts, selling at a 39% higher premium [3]. The sustainability market can be considered recession-proof since this study was collected amidst the COVID-19 global pandemic [4]. With all things considered, sustainability marketed products have continued to grow throughout the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression [5]. This raises the question, is now the right time?

Who’s Holding You Accountable?

Failing to act before an official and legislative change is mandated will no doubt decrease the market effectiveness and opportunity to set yourself apart from competitors before it is streamlined and mandated. There is still time to perform a footprint analysis and implement changes before the United Nations (UN) Plastics Treaty is ratified in June and December 2023 [6].

If your company is one of the 18,000 that has disclosed to CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) for climate change, water quality, or forests in the past or funded by investors with a vested interest in public disclosure, thinking about your plastic impact may come down to bargaining with your financial support. In 2023, the CDP disclosure questionnaire piloted a new set of plastic-related voluntary questions under the Water Quality survey in a growing global response to plastic pollution disclosure and responsibility. These investors are forcing the hand of their companies, thus opening the floodgates of data needed for policymakers to make viable mandated solutions that drive actualized change [7]. This top-down pressure will only increase as the Plastics Treaty makes headway. In the wake before US-mandated disclosure breaches the horizon, familiarizing your business with the conduct of disclosure is both wise and forward-looking.

What’s Next?

The world is at the precipice of significant change—the role of plastic materials is at a tipping point, shifting in its value and applications. The United Nations Environment Programme approaches plastic circularity with three easy steps: eliminate, innovate, and circulate [8]. The role plastic footprints play in larger mitigation measures and Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) targets is just one step towards a more circular, efficient, and cost-saving operation, whether applied to events, concerts, products, or company offices or operations. Although new and sometimes misinformed, multiple data sources frame plastic mitigation and circular innovation as a sound investment, both operationally and financially. Now that you have the data to assure leadership to buy into plastic initiatives, congratulate yourself for being a thought leader towards corporate change with visible impact.

Understanding your impact is the first step towards change, and there are multiple options available for companies actively planning to meet their ESG targets.

Our global teams are ready to work with you – let’s connect, begin setting targets, assess and mitigate your plastic footprint.

[1]  The Price of Plastic Pollution: Social Costs and Corporate Liabilities

[2]  Breaking the Plastic Wave: Top Finding fo Preventing Plastic Pollution
[3]  2020 Sustainable Market Share Index (
[4]  Risk of Global Recession in 2023 Rises Amid Simultaneous Rate Hikes
[5]  The Great Lockdown: Worst Economic Downturn Since the Great Depression
[6]  Plastic Treaty progress puts spotlight on circular economy
[7]  Businesses encouraged to disclose plastics footprint through CDP for the first time
[8]  Plastic Treaty progress puts spotlight on circular economy

About the Author

Leticia Socal is a chemist and seasoned plastic industry professional with over 15 years of experience spanning R&D, intellectual property, market research & strategy. Leticia is a certified TRUE Zero Waste advisor and a Blue Consultant. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Chemistry, a Master of Science in Materials Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science.

Carbon Capture & Storage: The Need, The Landscape, The Opportunity

Carbon Capture & Storage: The Need, The Landscape, The Opportunity

Carbon Capture & Storage: The Need, The Landscape, The Opportunity

by: Jessica Campbell | April 26, 2023


The Need

The scaling of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) globally is now widely accepted as necessary (rather than desired) when it comes to achieving net-zero commitments and the targets set out in the Paris Agreement. McKinsey & Company estimated that we need to reach at least 4.2 gigatons of storage per annum (GTPA) by 2050, which represents a growth of 120 times current activity level [1]. Estimates by other groups, including the International Energy Agency (IEA), place the volumetric need anywhere between 3 – 10 GTPA to get us 5 – 10% of the way to net-zero. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has indicated that under ideal economic conditions, CCS has the potential to contribute between 15–55% of the cumulative mitigation efforts required to stay within 1.5 degrees. However, for this economic potential to be reached (i.e., to achieve economies of scale), “several hundreds of thousands of [carbon dioxide] CO2 capture systems would need to be installed over the coming century, each capturing some 1 – 5 MTCO2 per year” [2]. This represents a deployment of projects and technology that is unprecedented in its rate and scale. All this to say, no matter which source you look at, the message is clear; we need tremendous amounts of geologic CO2 storage, and we need it at pace.  

The Landscape

Despite the scientific consensus on the need for CCS, the path to implementing projects at scale comes with challenges. For one, the regulatory landscape of countries and jurisdictions to deploy CCS at scale are at varying readiness levels, with most falling in the ‘dismally unprepared’ category. Fortunately, there are many regions throughout Europe, the US, and Canada, where the regulatory frameworks are well developed due to decades-long oil and gas activity, including some dedicated geologic CO2 storage and its relative – Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). Even with more advanced regulatory frameworks, CCS projects still face a series of other challenges, including (but not limited to): 1. mineral rights ownership and disputes, 2. back-logs and long lead times for appropriate well permitting (i.e., Class VI in the US), 3. lack of CO2 transport and pipeline infrastructure, and 4. public opinion/acceptance.

The last one, ‘public opinion and acceptance’, often does not receive the attention it deserves as a potential disruptor and real threat to progress on scaling CCS. In just one example, an open letter to the US and Canadian governments was signed by over 500 groups in 2021, calling for a halt to all support for CCS projects [3]. Due to the complex nature of our energy systems, how they interface with society, and an unfortunate history of ecosystem and environmental justice abuses, it should not come as a surprise that CCS is caught in the crosshairs given the size and the wide variety of potential applications for the projects, cross-sectoral and economy-wide. It will take a cohesive, patient, and relationship-based approach to help educate and repair some of the damage done. Unfortunately, it is a common misconception that CCS is a band-aid solution that will distract from the energy transition and investment in alternate fuels. The reality is that CCS will enable the energy transition, with the key word being transition. CCS will allow the production of lower-cost low-CI hydrogen and other alternate fuels needed to reduce emissions in hard-to-abate sectors. Short-term access to these fuels is critical to achieving emission reductions now and allows time for the supply of renewable fuels and energy sources to ramp up to meet the ever-growing demand. 

Regarding environmental markets, CCS projects are considered an emissions avoidance rather than a removal since the CO2 never actually enters the atmosphere. Logically, the prevention emissions should be valued equally compared to removing them after the fact. Nevertheless, a false dichotomy occurs in the market, where removal-based credits are viewed as superior to (i.e., trading at 2–3 times the price) avoidance credits and activities. The value differential is a function of capital cost – direct air capture (DAC) and other carbon removal technologies and activities are currently more expensive to implement. Still, there is also a component associated with optics, which is unfortunate. Analogous to a bathtub full of water, the bath would never drain if one pulled the plug but kept the tap running. Removals are an exciting technology development associated with vital natural system restoration projects and activities. However, we are still too early in the energy transition to focus our attention too squarely on removals – we still need high-quality avoidance projects that have the potential to mitigate emissions on the gigaton scale, which includes CCS. As is a common theme throughout this blog, we need more of both, not either/or.

Despite the regulatory challenges and bumpy road ahead, hundreds of companies have either proposed CCS projects or are evaluating opportunities, including many of ClimeCo’s clients. In this valiant pursuit, ClimeCo has accepted the challenge and is working to support our clients through strategic advisory services and de-risking investment through partnerships and optimization of multiple potential revenue streams.

The Opportunity

The recent changes to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the opportunities it has created for CCS are generally understood – albeit in theory. Projects that plan to sequester CO2 in secure, geologic formations can receive up to $85 per tonne of CO2 injected under the 45Q tax credit. What is often less clear are the opportunities for additional revenue streams, specifically within the voluntary carbon market (VCM), and the rules around stacking the various available incentives. Opportunities for value creation outside of the VCM arise from low-carbon fuel markets and green premiums for low-carbon products. How these fit together within an optimized organizational strategy while achieving broader emission reduction goals can be challenging to navigate. Although ClimeCo takes a holistic approach to value creation via all channels, the paragraphs below will highlight the recent developments that will open pathways in the VCM. 

Historically, North America’s only VCM methodologies for generating carbon credits from CO2 sequestration activities were specifically designed for and limited to EOR. The absence of a methodology for geologic storage was just a symptom of the economic realities of pure geological storage projects – most would just not pencil at previous incentives levels, even with stackable carbon credits. However, the new IRA is a game changer, placing hundreds of millions more tonnes per annum within the realm of potentially economical or marginal. The VCM is ramping up to help projects falling in the ‘uneconomic’ or ‘marginal’ categories to be economic and to de-risk the investments by diversifying the revenue streams. The cost of CCS projects varies widely by industry. Those in hard-to-abate sectors have a particularly high cost of capture to low purity and/or concentration of CO2 streams. Fortunately, there will be at least one, if not two, new VCM methodologies available in the near term that will allow for the creation of voluntary carbon credits from CCS. This opportunity will be particularly advantageous for those in hard-to-abate sectors where the $85 per tonne alone is not enough.

The American Carbon Registry (ACR) is in the process of finalizing its methodology that would allow for carbon credits created from the following activities: geologic storage, direct air capture (DAC), EOR, and bioenergy with CCS (BECCS). We expect the methodology to be available by the end of 2023.

Verra is working with the CCS+ Initiative to develop a series of modules for CCS projects for credit creation in the VCM. Verra has indicated that the first module will allow for crediting of the same activities as under the ACR methodology; however, it needs to be clarified as to whether any negative emissions (i.e., removals) associated with BECCS will be included in the first release.

For organizations at various stages in the CCS project development journey, it will be necessary to understand all the potential revenue streams associated with the project, including voluntary carbon credits as well as other value-creation opportunities in low-carbon fuel markets, compliance markets, and additional government grants and funding and the associated value, risks, challenges, and optimization opportunities. It is also important to understand how utilizing the VCM fits within the broader organizational strategy, emission reduction targets, and a product’s value in the market (i.e., green premiums).

1]  McKinsey & Company, Scaling the CCUS Industry to Achieve Net-Zero Emissions
[2]  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage
[3]  Oil Change International, Open Letter to US and Canadian Governments

About the Author

Jessica Campbell, Director of Energy Innovations, leads ClimeCo’s CCS and Low Carbon Fuels Program. She is passionate about the power of utilizing environmental markets to expedite decarbonization goals and supporting our clients through the energy transition.       


Plastic Footprint Part I: Insights from a Case Study

Plastic Footprint Part I: Insights from a Case Study

Plastic Footprint Part I: Insights from a Case Study

by: Leticia Socal | March 22, 2023


Plastic Footprint Part 1ClimeCo’s Plastic Project Partner, The Way Project, Cote d’Ivoire

At this point, we all know there is a global crisis of plastic waste. Consumers rank plastic pollution among the top three environmental issues [1] and have started associating plastic and packaging with environmental degradation. Consumers’ expectations of companies to shift to more sustainable practices have grown. Companies started committing to plastic reduction, recyclability, recycled content, and eliminating problematic plastic. There is so much to do, but where do we begin?

Once a company understands how plastics flow in and out of its value chain, it’s easier to work on plastic mitigation strategies. Plastic footprints are a fast-evolving starter to waste mitigation. They help a company achieve its commitments and plastic-focused ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) targets. A plastic footprint measures the total amount of plastic used, calculating the baseline against which progress can be measured. Despite its straightforwardness, application, and approach may vary depending on goals, purpose, and scope. Is the footprint measuring an entire company’s operations, or only focusing on one product, or could a company want to understand the plastic footprint of a one-off event? Defining the proper scope and determining which areas of plastic usage are included or excluded at the very beginning of the process is extremely important.

Modeled after its precursor, the carbon footprint, the plastic footprint reflects a similar model—measuring, mitigating, and investing [2]. This topic has gained more attention in recent years, followed by a spike in plastic pacts, agreements, bans, and zero-tolerance statements [3]. Global trends reveal that a growing number of countries are responding to customer demand, requiring more “environmental considerations into their products [4].” Perhaps the spike is fueled by fear, opportunity, or hope. Whatever the reason, the inspiration to act, and be successful, requires a baseline from which to set a foundation. Studying a success story here is meant to guide, educate, and inspire your plastic footprint on the first step on your journey to plastic ESG.

Case Study: Plastic Footprint for a Cosmetic Business

ClimeCo examined the process and corresponding results from conducting a plastic footprint for a cosmetic business whose mission is to provide clean products with ingredient transparency and zero or low waste in its operations. Plastic footprint assessments provide the baseline for action, valuable insight for informed decisions, long-term cost savings, and partnership opportunities across the value chain.

Let’s dive deep into the process of making one of its products: a body lotion. The steps of this exercise were: 

  1. Assessing the internal plastic footprint
  2. Designing and defining (where needed) mitigation measures
  3. Enhancing product offering and marketing
  4. Creating opportunities to connect more with customers and/or existing suppliers

Like a carbon footprint assessment, the first step is defining the scope. In this case, ClimeCo looked at the inflow, operational, and outflow of plastic in the company’s value chain.

  • Inflow plastic is the packaging that enters the company’s operations attached to a product and leaves it as waste. (In this case: ingredient packaging)
  • Operational plastic, like industrial plastic, is used and disposed of during a company’s operations (In this case: plastic gloves, stirring tools, and storage containers)
  • Outflow plastic is attached to a product within a company’s operational boundaries and leaves together with the product. (In this case: the primary packaging, outer box, marketing and instructional materials, and decorative add-ons)

Cosmetic Company Footprint Scope Example - ClimeCo
After a detailed survey, we clearly defined the picture of the plastic flowing throughout the company’s operations. An assessment of the type and form of plastic packaging and material usage (single use vs. durable) was done, detailing all important data and highlighting hotspots for action. Local waste management and partnership opportunities were included in the data analysis as well. This data built a roadmap with short, mid, and long-term actions.

With zero investment, the company reduced waste sent to landfill from 62% to 30%. Reducing waste to landfill was achieved with immediate, internal changes, such as proper on-site sorting and disposal, leveraging available waste management, and a local recycling center. Improved employee training and adequate labeling of waste bins were also vital in increasing landfill diversion and reducing recycling stream contamination with non-recyclables. Changes to the product packaging were made, reducing the outflow plastic footprint from 64% diversion to zero, as part of a 100% reusable and recyclable packaging program.

Next, the company took the following external steps to mitigate its footprint further while enhancing its relationships with suppliers and customers: 

  • Initiating upstream partnerships with suppliers to return and reuse shipping containers and packaging, reducing inflow packaging.
  • Offering refill and takeback programs to customers in exchange for discounts and rewards. This is only possible because the product packaging is now durable, washable, and can be sanitized with every use.
  • Evaluating operation-related and product-related certifications such as waste diversion, plastic-free seals, and recyclability.
  • Educating customers by adding information on the takeback program, disposal options, certifications, and the plastic footprint to product marketing.
  • Improving landfill diversion through local haulers and recyclers outreach (new goal is from 30% to less than 10%).
  • Offsetting the unavoidable plastic by investing in collection & recycling activities through verified plastic credits.

Aside from enhancing product messaging, customer engagement, and reportable ESG metrics for stakeholders, the cosmetic company saw a 10% increase in overall sales and positive customer feedback. Moving forward, plans for this company include expanding the plastic footprint exercise to other products, which is an easy task to implement due to the availability of initial footprint data.

With a quantified baseline and a coherent action plan laid out, the most challenging part of creating a successful plastic ESG plan is complete. The benefits of this plan go beyond reducing pollution. You can now create value that was unattainable before.

The next step requires answering questions such as: 

  • How much money are you saving by making plastic-conscious choices?
  • What are the new marketing opportunities available?
  • What is the ROI of changing your operations to be more sustainable?

Part II of this blog will answer these questions. Actions like these will appeal to your senior management, investors, and customers alike. There is a small window available where you can act, stand out from the competition, and be a part of creating the solution. Stay tuned for our next blog, where we outline the data you need to make a case for preventing inaction.

[1]  Shelton Group, Waking the Sleeping Giant: What Middle America knows about plastic waste and how they’re taking action

[2]  ClimateTrade, The evolution of carbon footprint measurement
[3]  Reuters, Big brands call for a global pact to cut plastic production
[4]  The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, The rise of single-use plastic packaging avoiders

About the Author

Leticia Socal is a chemist and seasoned plastic industry professional with over 15 years of experience spanning R&D, intellectual property, market research & strategy. Leticia is a certified TRUE Zero Waste advisor and a Blue Consultant. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Chemistry, a Master of Science in Materials Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science.

“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.”  Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead


Forest Fragmentation & Biodiversity Byways

Forest Fragmentation & Biodiversity Byways

Forest Fragmentation & Biodiversity Byways

by: Daniel Frasca | February 22, 2023


Every road paved through a forest causes habitat fragmentation.

The resources necessary to sustain an ever-increasing human population have placed an unprecedented burden on the world’s biodiversity. Satellite imagery of our planet reveals the devastating effects human development has imposed on the natural world. Our blue and green planet is becoming a mosaic of disappearing ecosystems, each a semblance of the natural habitat that once was. Roads, crop fields, and other human impositions permeate the natural world, creating small segments of habitat where a lucky few species remain. The process whereby large swathes of contiguous habitat are segmented into smaller “islands” of lower-quality ecosystems is called habitat fragmentation.

The Drivers of Habitat Fragmentation

Habitat fragmentation is occurring at an alarming rate across the globe. While natural events such as volcanic eruptions and fires can fragment habitats, the primary driver of habitat fragmentation today is human development.  Every road paved through a forest or fenceline driven across a grassland is a perpetrator of habitat fragmentation. Each incursion imposes an artificial edge within the natural habitat that came before. A recent study illustrates the sheer scale on which habitat fragmentation is occurring, estimating that 70% of the world’s remaining forests are within one kilometer of the forest’s edge. [1]

Songbirds are an example of an edge species that have adapted to survive on the forest’s edge.

The Impacts of Habitat Fragmentation

An ecosystem is a fragile complexity that depends on the existence of each individual organism residing within the system. Seemingly isolated individuals and functions are interwoven components of a much larger system, intricately strung together like a spiderweb. An ecosystem is truly a whole greater than the sum of its parts, with each individual organism performing a function critical to the existence of the interwoven system. When contiguous habitat is divided into smaller fragments, the integrity of the entire system is compromised. The remaining patches of habitat will not be able to recreate the complexity of the larger system it was once a part of.

Fragmented landscapes alter ecosystem dynamics to favor the survival of certain species over others. So-called “edge species” have adapted to survive in the boundary areas between ecosystems, also known as ecotones. Songbirds are one such example. Nesting in the trees of the forest while feeding in the open lawns of our backyards, the songbird’s survival depends on the presence of a forest edge. Edge species tend to have much higher population densities in the ecotone in comparison to the interior of the habitat, a phenomenon known as the edge effect. While these species have evolved to survive in the transitional boundary zones where two ecosystems collide, other species are specifically adapted to the conditions of the interior habitat. Habitat fragmentation creates edges that expose “interior species” to edge conditions for which they are not well adapted. Therefore, the process of habitat fragmentation favors the survival of edge species at the expense of the species adapted to the habitat interior.

Habitat fragmentation will accelerate the trend toward species extinction by limiting wildlife mobility. Many animal species rely on annual migrations to ensure reproduction and survival. Degraded and fragmented landscapes act as barriers along these routes and impede these cyclical migratory patterns, which are fundamental to that species’ survival. Interfering with these fundamental life-cycle behaviors increases the likelihood of a species’ extirpation and extinction. Entire populations are effectively restricted to a small “island” of their original habitat. This isolation also interferes with the evolutionary process on a genetic level. A loss of genetic diversity tends to arise in small populations and can impair a species’ ability to adapt to changing conditions. Reduced gene flow can limit the occurrence and spread of favorable traits. Finally, population size can change drastically when individual numbers are small due to natural fluctuations in birth and death rates. Fragmented landscapes and the resulting isolated populations mean species in fragmented habitats are more vulnerable to extirpation.

Fragmented landscapes create “islands” of isolated habitats.

Habitat Fragmentation and Climate Change

The natural world has showcased its spectacular ability to adapt and overcome time and time again. All life on Earth must once again adapt, this time compelled to react to a human-induced crisis. If history is any indicator, life will seek out the conditions in which it was adapted to survive. As the climate changes, entire ecosystems will migrate to more favorable regions on a global scale. Ecosystems will flee poleward to adapt to rising temperatures, starting from the equator. The polar regions will be the first victims of climate change as there will be nowhere to migrate to (hence why the polar bear has become the poster species of climate change). The tundra, which currently encircles the polar region, will migrate to replace it, while the taiga forest will replace the tundra, and so on. This will also happen in mountain ecosystems, where the tree line will migrate upslope as climatic conditions allow. Climate adaptation would unfold like this in a perfect and predictable world, but the world is far from perfect, and mother nature is notoriously unpredictable.

Wildlife corridors combat habitat fragmentation by reconnecting landscapes.

Humankind is compelling the natural world to adapt to a rapidly changing climate while simultaneously preventing it from doing just that. Fragmented landscapes impede the natural adaptive process of the world’s ecosystems. We must provide avenues for our precious biodiversity to pursue more favorable climatic conditions by designating areas for wildlife corridors. So-called wildlife corridors reconnect fragmented habitats and, when strategically placed, can facilitate climate adaptation by providing byways for climate migration. Landscape connectivity is our best asset in insulating biodiversity from the worst effects of climate change by enabling adaptive climate migration on a global scale.

The Anole Lizard is one of the many vulnerable species benefiting from ClimeCo’s wildlife corridor project in Colombia.

ClimeCo’s Partnership to Combat Habitat Fragmentation

ClimeCo has partnered with Saving Nature and UPROAR, global leaders in biodiversity conservation, to plant strategic wildlife corridors in biodiversity hotspots worldwide. Biodiversity hotspots are regions and ecosystems containing endemic species that exist nowhere else on Earth. In collaboration with a local non-profit, Bioconservancy Foundation, we are undertaking reforestation projects in the unique cloud forest habitat of the Colombian Andes mountains. The project’s first phase will restore over 550 hectares (~1350 acres) to serve as a wildlife corridor for many endangered species, including 30 IUCN-threatened bird species. Many new species have been discovered within the project area, including nine frog species, six lizard species, and seven orchid species. The olinguito, the first carnivore species discovered in the American continents since 1978, can also be found within the project area. The project is strategically located between two existing nature reserves which will serve as a large swathe of contiguous habitat to support and protect this critical biodiversity. With this reforested habitat, these species will be able to migrate upslope in response to the changing climate. This restored habitat connectivity enables landscape-scale climate resiliency and ultimately slows the alarming trends of species extinction in these biodiversity hotspots.

Creating favorable migratory conditions will be especially important in the 21st century as the entire Earth adapts to the rapidly changing climate. Reversing the trends of habitat fragmentation and ensuring landscape connectivity will slow the rate of species extinction and give our natural world a fighting chance at survival. We have a moral imperative to protect the globe’s biodiversity from a problem of our own making.

[1] Habitat fragmentation and its lasting impact on Earth’s ecosystems | Science Advances

About the Author

Daniel Frasca is a Program Development Associate working within the Nature-Based Solutions team at ClimeCo. Daniel is dedicated to developing ClimeCo’s diverse portfolio of nature-based solutions projects that produce tangible benefits for local communities and biodiversity.

Blue Carbon 102

Blue Carbon 102

Blue Carbon 102

Red, White, & Blue (Carbon): The Global Distribution of Blue Carbon Projects and Opportunities in the United States

by: Allyson Ulsh | January 19, 2023


Blue Carbon 102 | Allyson UlshIndonesia is home to the largest percentage of mangrove ecosystems globally. Mangroves are critical ecosystems that can sequester and store carbon dioxide, referred to as blue carbon due to their coastal nature.

Where is Blue Carbon Located?

Our team dove headfirst into the world of blue carbon in a previous blog post, Blue Carbon 101. Through exploring how blue carbon differs from ‘regular’ carbon, which ecosystems sequester it, and the interwoven community and biodiversity benefits, it’s clear that blue carbon projects have a fundamental role in addressing and mitigating climate change. Even with the understanding that mangroves, seagrass meadows, and tidal marshes are responsible for sequestering blue carbon, it’s difficult to envision precisely where these critical ecosystems are in the world.

Mangroves are found worldwide in the intertidal zones along coastlines, with a large percentage of the species’ density and diversity in Southeast Asia. Indonesia has over 3.3 million hectares (approximately 8.2 million acres) of mangroves along its coastlines, accounting for nearly 20% of the world’s global mangrove inventory [1]. Brazil, Nigeria, and Mexico jointly account for another 20% of total mangroves worldwide [2].

Seagrasses (not to be confused with seaweed) can be found globally along coastlines, including regions along the Artic circle. Similar to mangrove distribution, the density and diversity of seagrasses are highest along the coasts of Southeast Asian countries throughout the Pacific [3]. Tidal marshes, defined as the wetland areas along and between coastal areas that are inundated by daily tidal patterns, can also be found globally. The contiguous United States, excluding Hawaii and Alaska, has over 2.9 million hectares (7.2 million acres) of intertidal vegetated coastal wetlands, with mangroves and tidal marshes included in this inventory [4].

Unfortunately, mangrove, seagrass, and tidal marsh ecosystems face significant global threats. In addition to removing existing habitats, coastal development alters the hydrology and increases pollution and sedimentation, putting additional pressure on these blue carbon ecosystems. Mangrove ecosystems suffer from deforestation due to increasing pressures from coastal agriculture, including but not limited to shrimp farming, fishing, and salt production. Rising sea levels, changing salinities, and increasing temperatures all stress these critical environments, contributing to further habitat loss across all coastal ecosystems.

Seagrass meadows play an essential role in sequestering and storing blue carbon in the ocean | Blue Carbon 102 by Allyson UlshSeagrass meadows play an essential role in sequestering and storing blue carbon in the ocean.

Where Are Today’s Blue Carbon Projects?

Current blue carbon projects listed on Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and Community, Climate, and Biodiversity registries focus primarily on mangrove restoration across four continents. These mangrove projects highlight how carbon finance can be coupled with local conservation organizations to scale restoration efforts. Mirroring the mangrove hotspots discussed above, many of these projects are in the coastal regions of Indonesia, India, China, Nigeria, Senegal, and Mexico. There are currently 28 mangrove projects across 13 countries listed on the VCS registry at various points of project development.

Within the blue carbon space, ClimeCo has partnered with YAKOPI to fund and restore 6,000 acres of mangroves in Indonesia’s Aceh and North Sumatra regions. This mangrove restoration project involves the community throughout the entire process. Including collecting seeds from mangrove propagules, propagating the seeds in nurseries, assessing planting locations, planting the mangroves, and monitoring and maintaining the stand health. More details on this project will be shared in a forthcoming blog post highlighting the incredible community and project partners that have made this project possible.

While several mangrove restoration projects are listed on Verra’s registries, only one listed blue carbon project exists within the United States. This project involves the restoration of seagrass meadows through the direct seeding of seagrass species along Virginia’s coastline. With blue carbon ecosystems accounting for less than 1% of the United States’ natural land area, the opportunity for U.S. blue carbon projects exists but certainly with its own set of challenges.

Blue Carbon Projects available on Verra's Verified Carbon Standard Registry | Blue Carbon 102 by Allyson UlshBlue carbon project locations based on project information publicly available on Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard Registry. Smaller countries on the map may only have one icon representing multiple projects in proximity. 

Louisiana’s coastline is home to the largest, most productive tidal wetland area across the United States | Blue Carbon 102 by Allyson UlshA Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Marsh Master moving through Louisiana’s tidal wetlands. Louisiana’s coastline is home to the largest, most productive tidal wetland area across the United States.

Coastal Blue Carbon in the United States

David Chen and I attended the Restoring America’s Estuaries: Coastal and Estuarine Summit early in December 2022 to learn more about the prospects of blue carbon projects in the United States. More than 1,375 coastal restoration professionals joined us to learn about opportunities and challenges surrounding blue carbon projects across the United States. Through attending several blue carbon sessions, we learned about topics such as seagrass carbon variability in California, the blue carbon market potential in Texas, and how to utilize blue carbon to support coastal wetland restoration in the Northeast.

While it’s clear that blue carbon projects have a fundamental role in addressing and mitigating climate change, it’s also evident that sea-level rise and its variable effects across different blue carbon ecosystems will complicate future project planning and development. Existing coastal marshes across the mid-Atlantic region are forecasted to be significantly vulnerable to sea-level rise. However, an opportunity exists for transitional zone habitats to migrate inland. Sea level rise will need to be accounted for in all aspects of blue carbon project development planning and implementation to ensure ecosystem, and subsequent carbon, permanence.

Additionally, there was a degree of uncertainty addressed in relation to the most effective restoration techniques for tidal marshes and seagrasses. Localized considerations, such as hydrology, in-land development, water quality, and salinity, among others, all play a role in the carbon sequestration rates across ecosystems. Careful consideration of the science behind blue carbon restoration will need to be accounted for in the quantification of carbon emission removals across landscapes.

Lastly are the challenges posed by jurisdictional claims. Carbon rights for the coastal and seafloor blue carbon ecosystems in the United States lie within different governmental agency jurisdictions. All blue carbon projects must involve the appropriate governmental agencies and foster relationships with the state legislature to ensure that projects and partners meet both state-led initiatives and voluntary carbon market standards. As sea-level rise affects these vulnerable ecosystems, the question of jurisdiction will become more complicated.

The scientific expertise and restoration partnership experience was unparalleled across the presentations. Our team’s overall takeaway from the conference was that while developing blue carbon projects in the United States is challenging across several facets, it is certainly possible. As a leader in developing and managing environmental commodities, we are excited to see how blue carbon projects will continue to expand and how we can be at the forefront of domestic blue carbon project development.

[1]  The Economics of Large-scale Mangrove Conservation and Restoration in Indonesia (

[2]  Global Forest Resources Assessment (
[3]  Seagrass and Seagrass Beds | Smithsonian Ocean (
[4]  Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2020

About the Author

Allyson Ulsh manages ClimeCo’s portfolio of nature-based solutions projects. From reforestation in tropical cloud forests to replanting bald cypress trees in Louisiana, Allyson understands the importance of coupling carbon finance with local stakeholder engagement to scale restoration efforts. Allyson is a Project Associate working within the Nature-Based Solutions project team. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Resource Management from Pennsylvania State University, Schreyer Honors College. 

Preparing for Climate Risk

Preparing for Climate Risk

Preparing for Climate Risk

by: Amanda Mast | December 15, 2022


Preparing for Climate Risk
Business leaders, investors, and policymakers are increasingly aware of how climate-related risks impact companies’ financial performance and operational resilience. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there have been 15 separate, billion-dollar weather and climate disasters during the first nine months of 2022. [i] Acknowledging the risks posed by climate change and investor requests for better information, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed rule amendments in March. These changes would require companies to share additional climate-related information—including climate risks and efforts to manage these risks. [ii]

How can business leaders prepare for a world with rapidly evolving climate risk? The SEC’s proposed rule amendments build upon the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). [iii] This blog outlines how companies can leverage the TCFD recommendations and shares quick tips on what to consider when approaching climate risk for the first time.

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures

TCFD is the dominant framework for managing climate risk. Established by the Financial Stability Board in 2015, TCFD set out to identify climate-related information that firms should gather and disclose to investors and other stakeholders. [iv] The TCFD released final recommendations in 2017, updating guidance in 2021. [v] These recommendations ask companies to consider climate risks under different scenarios, including transition risks—those associated with a transition to a low-carbon economy, such as a price on carbon—and physical risks, like extreme weather. [vi] This information is useful to investors looking to more accurately price climate risk, and to companies as they assess and manage these same risks.

Figure 1. The TCFD recommendations highlight various categories of climate-related risks that companies can assess. [vii]

Firms see the value and are getting on board.
The rapid adoption of the TCFD recommendations shows their value to companies and investors. In the TCFD’s 2022 Status Report, 80 percent of the large companies included in the review disclosed TCFD-aligned information. CDP, the non-profit responsible for the global environmental disclosure platform, incorporated the TCFD framework into their climate change questionnaire, further amplifying the recommendations. [viii] In 2022, over 18,000 companies representing more than half of global market capitalization disclosed to CDP—responding to requests from investors, customers, and other stakeholders. [ix]

Regulators reinforce TCFD recommendations. Over 120 regulators and governments have expressed support for the TCFD, with numerous governmental entities encouraging aligned disclosures, including Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK. [x] The United States is also counted in this group, as the SEC based the proposed rule amendments, in part, on the TCFD recommendations. [x]

Figure 2. Expansion of support for the TCFD recommendations over time from the October 2022 Status Report. [x]

Scenario Analysis Basics

Tools enable planning despite uncertainty. To help companies develop meaningful risk assessments, the TCFD recommends an analytical tool called scenario analysis. [xi] During a scenario analysis, companies consider a range of plausible futures, from an emissions trajectory that limits warming to 2°C or lower to a business-as-usual emissions trajectory that causes significant change to global temperatures. [xi] These scenarios are not meant to be forecasts but hypothetical paths of development that can allow a firm to build resilience across a range of possible future states. [xi] Institutions have published robust scenarios that companies can leverage in this exercise, ranging from “physical climate scenarios” to “transition scenarios.” [xii]

Figure 3. High-level framework for the scenario analysis of physical and transition risks by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. [xiii]

The physical impact of climate change. Physical scenarios focus on climate drivers, including GHG emissions, that allow models to explore the resulting changes in the climate system. [xiv] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is well-known for these scenarios, including the five Shared Socio-economic Pathways (SSPs) outlined in the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). The AR6 highlights a range of changes to the physical climate across scenarios. For example, an extreme heat event that historically occurred once every 50 years will likely occur more than 30 times in that same period under a high global warming scenario. [xiv] Companies can use scenarios to assess how their assets and operations may be affected and inform adaptation plans to stay competitive.

Figure 4. The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report uses five Shared Socio-economic Pathway scenarios that describe the development of climate drivers. [xv][xiv]

Transition impacts of climate change. Other scenarios allow companies to explore potential transition risks, like the scenarios of the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA’s Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario (NZE) outlines one possible pathway for the energy sector to reach net-zero emissions. [xvi] The IEA’s Stated Policies Scenario and Announced Pledges Scenario take policies and commitments, among other conditions, and model the resulting changes to the energy sector and global emissions. [xvi] Assessing resiliency under these scenarios can help firms understand their exposure to the impacts of the energy transition.            

Figure 5. The International Energy Agency’s three scenarios show a range of possible changes in the global energy system. The IEA also shows how two of these scenarios compare to select IPCC scenarios. [xvi]

How to Get Started

Better planning based on better data. Armed with an understanding of risks under future scenarios, companies can prepare despite significant uncertainty. They can not only consider current climate risks but also anticipate how they may change.  Developing robust climate assessments now can allow companies to anticipate regulation, meet investor disclosure requests, and improve the resilience of business operations against both the physical and transition risks of climate change.

Leveraging TCFD in preparation for regulation. When aligning to the TCFD framework, ClimeCo recommends that companies reflect internally first:

  • What are your primary goals? The TCFD recommendations can help companies prepare for upcoming regulations like the SEC’s proposed rule amendments. It can also help companies meet investors’ requests for TCFD alignment, improve their CDP Climate score, and better understand and manage business risk.
  • What is your existing governance and strategy related to climate change? By understanding and enhancing internal structures and priorities, companies can mitigate risk and capture economic opportunities related to the energy transition.
  • How do physical and transition risks currently impact the business? Understanding the most significant risks can allow a company to allocate resources efficiently for future risk management.
  • Who are the essential stakeholders? A shared understanding of climate change and the proper internal buy-in, whether from facilities, procurement, or investor relations teams, can help ensure the success of climate assessment initiatives.

ClimeCo supports clients in their efforts to align with TCFD and pursue scenario analysis. To learn more, please reach out to David Prieto or Amanda Mast.  

[i] NCEI. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters. 2022.

[ii] SEC. Fact Sheet Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures. 2022.
[iii] SEC. The Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors. 2022.
[iv] TCFD. About. 2022.
[v] TCFD. Implementing the Recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. 2021.
[vi] TCFD. Final Report: Recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. 2017.
[vii] TCFD. The Use of Scenario Analysis in Disclosure of Climate-related Risks and Opportunities.
[viii] CDP. How CDP is aligned to the TCFD. 2022.
[ix] CDP. How companies can take action. 2022.
[x] TCFD. 2022 Status Report. 2022.
[xi] TCFD. 2022 Status Report. 2022.
[xii] TCFD. 2022 Status Report. 2022.
[xiii] TCFD. Technical Supplement: The Use of Scenario Analysis in Disclosure of Climate-Related Risks and Opportunities. 2017.
[xiv] TCFD. Technical Supplement: The Use of Scenario Analysis in Disclosure of Climate-Related Risks and Opportunities. 2017.
[xv] TCFD. Technical Supplement: The Use of Scenario Analysis in Disclosure of Climate-Related Risks and Opportunities. 2017.
[xvi] TCFD. Technical Supplement: The Use of Scenario Analysis in Disclosure of Climate-Related Risks and Opportunities. 2017.
[xvii] U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. 2020. Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System.
[xviii] IPCC. Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. 2021.
[xix] IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.
[xx] IPCC. Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. 2021.
[xxi] IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.
[xxii] IEA. Global Energy and Climate Model. 2022.
[xxiii] IEA. Global Energy and Climate Model. 2022.
[xxiv] IEA. Global Energy and Climate Model. 2022.

About the Author

Amanda Mast joined ClimeCo in 2022 as a Manager of Climate Advisory on the Sustainability, Policy, and Advisory Team, and is based in Washington D.C. Before ClimeCo, she worked on Apple’s Environment, Policy, & Social Initiatives team and with The Coca-Cola Company, supporting global initiatives for environmental sustainability. Amanda leads climate strategy and risk management projects, corporate sustainability, and ESG disclosure.