Edward Hanrahan, Founder and Director of ClimateCare, makes the business case for projects that both cut carbon and improve lives.
You might not immediately associate carbon offsetting with large-scale health improvements and climate-resilient development. Historically, carbon offsets have been one distinct element of a company’s wider approach to sustainability, often dealt with on a transactional basis, once an offsetting policy is adopted.
Now, through groundbreaking ‘Climate and Development’ projects across the world, environmental and social health experts ClimateCare are proving that an integrated approach can reap benefits for business, people and the planet. Single projects can meet multiple business targets by rigorously measuring their development (public health and poverty alleviation) outcomes, as well as their environmental ones. The case for taking an integrated approach is simple: it’s better value for money, which is essential in the current economic climate.
Brand reputation remains a key driver for business to engage with offset providers such as ClimateCare. Supporting particular projects can help to secure existing relationships and facilitate expansion into emerging markets, where a demonstrable commitment to social responsibility can be a license to operate. And with compulsory carbon reporting on the horizon for many UK organisations, tackling emissions is high on the agenda. Another advantage is that it helps businesses focus on results, encouraging departments to pool budgets and work with NGO and government partners.
So how can a single project deliver these multiple climate, development and business benefits? One example is the pioneering Carbon for Water project. A world first, it uses climate finance (money paid by organisations and individuals to offset their carbon footprint) to help fund the distribution of safe water to 4.5 million people in Kenya. This Climate and Development project saves 2.4 million tonnes of carbon every year, and provides safe drinking water, dramatically reducing the incidence of lethal water-borne diseases, such as diarrhoea. It won the 2012 Environmental Finance Award, amongst others.
Efficient cookstove projects tell a similar story. Working in partnership with blue chip clients such as The Co-operative and Barclays, ClimateCare has funded the distribution of over 820,000 efficient cookstoves to some of the world’s least developed communities. This has cut more than two million tonnes of carbon emissions and improved the lives of 2.9 million people by reducing fuel expenditure and cutting indoor air pollution – a major cause of respiratory disease and one of the developing world’s biggest killers.
As Ben Norbury from The Co-operative explains, “Tackling climate and development challenges together makes simple business sense. We also gain focus, internally, by taking a joined up approach. It helps us to take responsibility for our unavoidable emissions, and achieve our Ethical Plan objective of tackling global poverty, more effectively.”
Forum for the Future’s report, ‘Making Carbon Markets Work for the Poor’, highlights that this ‘offset plus social’ approach is critical to drive clean development. As Will Dawson, Principal Advisor in new financing at the Forum, remarks, “It’s great to see ClimateCare taking a leading position by promoting high local benefit offset projects to companies in this scheme.”
As the deadline for fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals draws closer, the international community, through the UNFCCC Green Climate Fund, has expressed the need to attract private sector investment to tackle climate change and ‘deliver low-emission and climate-resilient development’.
These projects, that have both Climate and Development outcomes, are successfully using private sector finance and ClimateCare believe that they could provide the blueprint for attracting the new, large-scale funding required to successfully face these global challenges.
Edward Hanrahan is a Founder and Director of ClimateCare.
ClimateCare is a Forum for the Future partner.
Photo: Vestergaard Frandsen