A Balanced Approach

A Balanced Approach

A Balanced Approach

by William Flederbach, President & CEO | September 30, 2020

Life is about balance.
Our fight against climate change must also be balanced.

At ClimeCo, we balance our investments on all types of projects that mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  From sequestering carbon with nature-based solutions (NBS) like grassland preservation, reforestation, and mangrove re-establishment, to destroying it at manufacturing sites before it ever gets emitted into the atmosphere, we strive for a balanced approach to addressing climate change. 

Our first focus as a company is on destroying GHGs before they ever have a chance to be emitted into the atmosphere.  This results in a permanent, non-reversible reduction that offers assurances to our clients.  So why is this approach to climate change not as popular in the marketplace?  Why does the market prefer to sequester GHGs from the atmosphere after they have already been emitted than trying to prevent them from making it that far in the first place?  Imagine how much easier it would be to knock it out at its origin than to chase it down later.  To us, the proper approach requires a balance of both – destroying the GHG molecules before they are emitted to the atmosphere and then sequestering any unavoidable emissions that occur.


The Facts

The USEPA publishes world-wide sources of GHG emissions by major economic sector.  The USEPA reported that destructive patterns of land use account for 24 percent of human-caused GHG emissions (See Figure 1).  Of this, deforestation and forest degradation account for 17 percent of global GHG emissions. 


Figure 1 – Sources of GHG Emissions (USEPA)

At the same time, studies by the Global Carbon Project revealed that 45% of the GHGs emitted to the atmosphere are retained there, with only 55% being sequestered by land and oceans (See Figure 2).


Figure 2 – Fate of Carbon Emissions (Global Carbon Project)

Since nearly half of all GHGs will remain in the atmosphere for long periods of time, never to be sequestered, this supports the absolute need for a balanced approach: stop what you can from entering the atmosphere while increasing land-based solutions to enhance sequestration for the rest.  It’s that simple… right?


Nature-Based Solutions

NBS has become the buzz phrase recently but these practices, such as proper forest stewardship and regenerative agriculture, are not new and have been in place at some level for decades.  In fact, at the heart of the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), which was founded in 2003, was the Continuous Conservation Tillage and Conversion to Grassland protocol.  I grew up in the country where farmers would rotate crops between corn and soybeans, and we understood this helped to keep the soil healthy (not to mention its positive impact on our corn maze adventures!).  Now, this solid farming stewardship is considered fundamental to regenerative agriculture.

Today, there has been a renewed focus on at-scale reforestation efforts (such as ClimeCo’s partnership with Restore the Earth), grassland preservation and restoration, mangroves re-establishment, regenerative agriculture, and more.  These all play a critical role in combatting climate change.


Reversal Risks

California, under the Assembly Bill 32 Cap-and-Trade program, has issued over 151 million tonnes of carbon offsets (in the forestry sector) since its inception 8 years ago. The California Government Wildfire Report, states that, as of September 28, 2020, there have been over 8,100 fires this year that have consumed more than 3.7 million acres.  According to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, as of September 13, 2020, CO2 emissions from wildfires have reached about 83 million metric tonnes.  That is the highest level recorded since recordkeepings began in 2003.  The forest fires on the west coast are certainly exacerbated by climate change, as they are being fueled by two common contributors – dryer conditions and stronger winds.  Unfortunately, this will only get worse in the years ahead.  It is a sad story that highlights natural reversal risks in fire-prone areas of the country.

In addition to wildfires and other natural disasters, the intentional and illegal reversal of forests also occurs within countries wrought with political risk and unclear land rights.  For example, one only needs to look to Brazil, where a horrific tale of illegal deforestation is occurring.  According to conservation groups, deforestation in this region has soared since the Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, took office last year.  Numbers released by the Amazon Deforestation Satellite Monitoring Project, a high-resolution system operated by INPE that produces Brazil’s official deforestation data, showed that 10,100 km2 of forest were cleared between August 2018 and July 2019, a 34% increase from the previous year. Imagine being an investor in forest carbon offset projects in Brazil; would you feel comfortable that you had made a sound investment, an investment that was going to help combat climate change?

Do the risks of accidental or intentional reversal mean that we should not pursue forest or other very important NBS projects?  No, I would argue that these examples are more reason to invest in projects to enhance NBS carbon sequestration.  That said, when making your investments, understand thoroughly how the methodologies account for reversal risk, and be sure to identify both the geographical and political risks.


Permanent GHG Removal

Removing GHGs at the point of origin has always been a major focus for ClimeCo.  We like this approach because of the permanent, non-reversible solution it provides us in the fight against climate change.  To-date, ClimeCo has stopped over 20 million tonnes of CO2e from entering the atmosphere, and we are just getting ramped up!  Our expertise includes nitrous oxide abatement at nitric acid plants, ozone-depleting substance (ODS) destruction, methane capture and use, methane avoidance (composting), and more. These projects have no reversal risks and are of the highest quality.  ClimeCo has recently leveraged its N2O experience to lead the development of the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) Adipic Acid Protocol, which was approved by the CAR Board on September 30th.  This project type will abate an additional 5-10 million tonnes of CO2e annually in the United States.  Adipic acid is used to produce high performance plastics, including plastics contained in automobile airbags and light weight plastic in electric vehicles.  ClimeCo is also designing and building additional nitric acid (primarily used in fertilizer production) N2O abatement projects across North America.  We will soon exceed 15 million tonnes per year of CO2e abatement.

Imagine if these projects had not happened and this GHG loading had entered the atmosphere.  This would mean that, in the absence of ClimeCo’s efforts, to-date there would be an additional 20 million tonnes of CO2e in the atmosphere and, over the next decade, another 150 million tonnes or more impacting our climate.  If we were to rely only on sequestering, like as in a reforestation project, to reverse 170 million tonnes of CO2e, it would require in today’s marketplace a total of 850,000 acres at an average price of $12/tonne (forestry credit prices currently range from $8-15/tonne), resulting in a total cost of around $2,040,000,000.  By comparison, the same impact could be realized for far less cost with no reversal risk from ClimeCo’s GHG abatement technologies.  

So, my point is that there needs to be a balance of both permanent destruction of GHG molecules and sequestration in the marketplace for us to achieve our climate goals.  Relying on just one method will not get us there but finding the balance between the two can.

About the Author

William “Bill” Flederbach cofounded ClimeCo in 2009 and has grown the business rapidly over the past 10 years.  Before starting ClimeCo, Bill managed the air quality practice at O’Brien and Gere (OBG), and worked and managed the international carbon markets at MGM International and AgCert.  He is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and the Smeal College of Business at Penn State.

Who Knew Seeing The World Was Good For Your Soul But Bad For The Environment

Who Knew Seeing The World Was Good For Your Soul But Bad For The Environment

Who Knew Seeing The World Was Good For Your Soul But Bad For The Environment

Every day I scan news articles in search of the latest news on climate change and carbon offsets. 

Recently, there were two articles that caught my attention: 

A SunTrust Bank article that talked about a survey they did that revealed that the #1 priority for Americans saving money is to see the world, topping other typical reasons for saving, like for emergencies, retirement, or buying a house.

An article in The Los Angeles Times revealed that global travel may be good for the soul, but its huge carbon footprint means that it’s bad for the planet.

Reading these two articles jogged my memory about an article I wrote a few years back for  It was published in their Sustainable Tourism handbook and featured tips regarding how to offset travel emissions.  I felt it was time to revisit this subject again and spread the word on how to travel for fun and/or for business and still be good to the planet.

The LA Times article referenced a report from Nature Climate Change that stated, “global tourism accounts for about 8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.”  However, the report also stated that many of these destinations rely on tourism as their main income stream.  So, should we stop traveling?  Do we stop supporting these destinations that rely on our money to support their economy?  Can we be a conscientious traveler? 

I say no, you do not need to stop traveling, I say yes to supporting those destinations that rely on our money, and I will tell you how you can be an environmentally-conscientious traveler. 

Offsetting Travel Emissions

So, you are going on a family vacation, a prosperous business trip, or any number of other reasons why you’d leave the comfort of your home and drive, fly, sail, or rail to your destination. Unfortunately, one of the greatest environmental impacts of travel is the emission of greenhouse gases from your mode of transportation.  So, how do you continue to travel yet leave a less-negative impact on the environment?

In most cases, we do not have the ability or funds to install technology that would reduce the emissions of a plane, car, train or ship.  However, we can calculate the amount of GHG emissions that result from our own travel and then pay to reduce an equivalent amount of emissions from projects that have already been undertaken solely for that purpose.  Since climate change—the impact to our environment from the emission of greenhouse gases caused by human activities – is global pollution, emissions that take place anywhere in the world have the same negative impact.  Conversely, emission reductions from projects anywhere in the world can have the same positive impact in the fight against climate change.

Greenhouse gas emission reductions are commonly referred to as carbon offsets.  A carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases that is voluntarily made to compensate for (or offset) an emission that is generated elsewhere.  One carbon offset equals one metric tonne of CO2 equivalent reduced. 

What should you look for when purchasing offsets for your travel emissions? 

First, find a carbon calculator that you trust.  Trustworthy calculators should include, or link to, an explanation behind its calculations, and use widely recognized data and emission factors.  A web search for “carbon calculator” will bring up many calculator choices.  Find one that’s easy to use and offers a simple calculation for what you desire to offset.  There are some available that are dedicated solely to travel while others may incorporate or require the calculation of emissions resulting from other aspects of your life, up to and including your entire carbon footprint.  Complex calculators can be time-consuming, so if you only wish to offset your travel emissions, finding a simpler one would be more efficient.  I recommend EPA’s carbon calculator, which you can find at

Finding a calculator and calculating the emissions resulting from your travel is the easy part.  On the other hand, finding quality carbon offsets that best suit your needs may prove more challenging.

Be careful to only purchase quality offsets based on these four standards: additionality, prevention of leakage, permanence, and venerability. 


Additionality means a project is beyond business as usual.  In other words, the GHG reductions from these projects wouldn’t happen if the project site goes about its normal business, is regulated regarding carbon emissions, or would not have been possible without the revenue gained from selling offsets. The point is to ensure that any greenhouse gas reductions from the project are ‘in addition’ to what would have happened anyway. Otherwise, offsets from the project don’t achieve any “additional” environmental benefit.

Prevention of Leakage:

Leakage typically occurs in situations where resources are being protected. For example, if a carbon offset program focuses on storing carbon by protecting a forest from being logged, it’s entirely possible that loggers might move their operations down the road to another forest, which is referred to as “leakage”.  In this case, the emissions weren’t actually reduced, they just moved to a different site. 


Permanence is typically a concern on projects where greenhouse gases are being stored, rather than reduced or destroyed.  If there is a significant risk that the stored carbon could be released through events such as a forest fire or a leak from sequestered carbon, the project developer should note the steps they’ve taken to avoid such releases and, perhaps, offer to supply other types of offsets to the buyer (in case the stored carbon is released).


The last requirement is verifiability.  A third-party verifier must be able to look at project data and confirm that the carbon reductions are real and credible. They determine proper baselines and verify that the reductions adhere to strict monitoring and reporting standards.

It is very difficult for most individuals to test for the criteria above, however, there is an easier way

…Purchase offsets from projects that are registered with a credible carbon offset registry.  Examples of these include the Climate Action Reserve, American Carbon Registry, and VERRA among others.  These registries require their projects to meet the above criteria.

There are some additional criteria that you may wish to consider that won’t affect the quality of the offsets but that may be personally important to you.  For instance, you may wish to purchase offsets that align with something that you are passionate about, such as saving trees or supporting agriculture.  Or you may wish to support projects that align with your geographical interests, whether it be close to home, a developing country or somewhere you are passionate about.  It’s important to remember that one metric tonne of CO2 reduction made anywhere results in the same positive impact on climate change everywhere.

Ultimately, if we expect big corporations to be environmentally conscious, we must expect the same from ourselves.  Traveling carbon-neutral through the purchase of offsets is simple and inexpensive.  Most importantly, by purchasing offsets, you are helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as these projects would not take place otherwise.  

Thank you for reading my blog and for doing your part in the fight against climate change!

If you are looking for more information on how to offset your carbon footprint, please contact our VP of Voluntary Markets, Dan Linsky at (772) 323-2055.

About the Author

Dan Linsky serves as Vice President, Voluntary Markets at ClimeCo, where he leads the company’s commodity trading group and specializes in the sale and management of the firm’s carbon offset portfolio for the Voluntary market.  He is a graduate of the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Science in business and finance and has been working in the carbon and renewable energy fields for more than 15 years.