Discussion Paper: Carbon Offsetting and Nature-based Solutions

04 Nov 2021

Cambridge Zero Policy Forum Discussion Paper: Carbon Offsetting and Nature-based Solutions to Climate Change

October 2021

Preserving and restoring nature can play a key role in tackling climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, whilst also protecting vital ecosystems. However, nature-based solutions to climate change must be deployed in a way that avoids causing damage to local communities or the environment, and ensures emissions reductions are accurate and permanent.

Carbon offsetting is a strategy which involves organisations or individuals paying for emissions reductions or removals elsewhere in order to meet their own climate goals. There is much controversy surrounding carbon offsetting relating to risks and challenges including the issue of illusory emission reductions, the possibility that offsetting delays direct action, and potential negative impacts on vulnerable communities. Despite these challenges, many nature-based solutions are currently funded through carbon offsetting, and such funding streams are likely to increase in the coming years.

Throughout 2021, the Cambridge Zero Policy Forum, which CCE co-hosts with the Centre for Science and Policy, ran a small reading group on carbon offsetting using nature-based solutions to climate change. Members were academics and stakeholders interested in exploring this complex topic. This discussion paper provides an overview of the key issues by summarising some of the challenges and potential solutions identified during the reading group discussions.