Seldom has a day gone by that we have not heard of a company or organization announcing new climate change commitments. Just in the past few months, we have witnessed companies, including Apple, Delta Air Lines, and Unilever, announcing bold carbon-neutrality goals as they seek to do their part to address the climate crisis. In fact, Microsoft’s plan to offset its entire carbon footprint dating back to its inception in 1975 may represent the most ambitious commitment that we’ve seen yet!
So, this leads us to a question we are often asked:
“How can my organization achieve carbon neutrality while we continue to grow?”
While it may be game-on in the pursuit to green up your existing operations, you must also consider your company’s future. As your business grows, implements new projects, expands office space, increases staff, constructs new facilities, or locates new business sites, you will contribute additional GHGs above and beyond your existing footprint. This will need to be addressed as you plan your mitigation approach.
So how can this be achieved? Will there be enough carbon offsets available to meet your needs? More importantly, is there a way for you to have more direct engagement when it comes to emission reduction activities that will align with your growth timeline? Well, thanks to Climate Forward, a new program recently instituted by the Climate Action Reserve (the Reserve), the answer is yes!
Climate Forward is a program that provides a practical solution for companies and other organizations that seek cost-effective mitigation of anticipated GHG emissions. The program is designed to facilitate investments in emission reduction projects today that will result in future GHG reductions that are aligned to mitigate the future emissions of a company, organization, or project. Its purpose is to incentivize the implementation of emission reduction projects that would otherwise be unviable using traditional carbon offset programs.
Under this program, the Reserve issues Forecasted Mitigation Units (FMUs) upfront for a project’s entire crediting period upon the completion of its confirmation, a process conducted by an independent third party that demonstrates that the project has been implemented according to an approved methodology. The methodologies within this program contain the eligibility rules, quantification methods, and documentation and confirmation requirements that ensure the consistency and rigor of GHG reduction accounting for a specific mitigation project. Meanwhile, the up-front issuance of FMUs helps to shift the project’s economic curve to better incentivize long-term mitigation efforts, allowing the company to plan and implement emission reduction projects that align with their sustainability objectives.
FMUs versus Offsets
While FMUs and offsets are similar in that they are both equal to the reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), there are several differentiating factors between them. The primary difference is that FMUs represent emissions that are expected to be reduced (ex-ante), while offsets represent emissions that have already been reduced and have completed a rigorous monitoring and verification process (ex-post). While offsets are typically applied against past emission-producing activities, FMUs can only be applied against a future stream of greenhouse gas emissions. While the detailed auditing process for both project types is similar, they occur at different stages of the project cycle: for offset projects, the “verification” process is conducted periodically throughout the crediting period but, for FMU projects, the “confirmation” process is done only once, at the beginning of the crediting period. This one-time confirmation process helps to facilitate the monetization of FMUs in the early stages of the project, which in turn can be used to support the financing of future activities associated with the project.
Benefits and Applications
The Climate Forward program offers several benefits to organizations and developers that are seeking carbon neutrality:
- It reduces the barriers for innovative, targeted climate solutions.
- It can incentivize the development of carbon projects that produce co-benefits that may help the organization achieve ESG goals above and beyond climate impacts; such co-benefits can be tailored to the organization’s goals and values.
- Projects can be targeted to occur in the communities that are directly impacted by their operations.
- Projects under these types of programs help demonstrate climate leadership.
One potential application of Climate Forward is for GHG mitigation requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CEQA requires state and local agencies to follow a protocol of analysis and public disclosure of future environmental impacts of a proposed project and to adopt feasible measures to mitigate those impacts. Climate Forward can provide entities that are subject to CEQA GHG mitigation requirements with a cost-effective and environmentally rigorous option for future GHG mitigation.
Another potential application of Climate Forward is for developers of mixed-use communities to participate in reforestation projects, where the purchase of FMUs could be used to mitigate the carbon footprints of their projects while incentivizing reforestation efforts. In fact, ClimeCo is presently supporting a reforestation project in the Mississippi River Basin in partnership with Restore the Earth Foundation, using Climate Forward’s Reforestation methodology; the long-term goal of this project is to restore a total of 1 million acres using this methodology.
Climate Forward provides organizations with a unique opportunity to partner with other organizations to implement sustainable projects while providing benefits to their future mitigation efforts. As of this writing, there are a half-dozen methodologies that are either approved or under development in the Climate Forward program; however, there are many more creative, innovative mitigation activities that could be considered for development as a future methodology. The program is designed to expand the scope of feasible GHG mitigation project types by encouraging third parties to submit their methodologies for mitigation activities. So, if you have an idea in mind for an innovative emission reduction or carbon sequestration project, ClimeCo is happy to help!