Carbon compensator: how does it work?

It is possible to offset greenhouse gas emissions by planting trees. But how does carbon offset work in France? What types of projects companies and can local authorities invest? Interview with Nicolas Ferrier, carbon offset operator and co-founder of Carbonapp.

What is carbon offset?

It is a system that helps promoters of projects in forestry, agriculture or other more industrial sectors fight climate change. The goal is to allow businesses and local authorities to offset their greenhouse gas emissions from local projects. France is committed carbon neutrality by 2050. Not everyone can contribute equally to this goal. There are urban areas where many companies are major emitters of greenhouse gases, while other areas of France, which are typically forested, act as carbon sinks. Carbon offset binds them, allowing the former to help the latter.

What is the Carbonapp used for?

Our solution is a web-based platform that allows you to link to most local carbon offset projects so that companies can choose what works best for them. We also have a network of partners in the agricultural sectors, foresters and the circular economy. We rely on them to deliver projects. Our platform will be available in July.

How does carbon offset work in practice?

Compensation is carried out by two levers. The first is the accumulation of carbon. These are residential, forestry and agricultural projects. Companies will promote the planting of trees or orchards, which will store carbon as they grow. On the other hand, there are non-living projects that concerncircular economy. For example, the introduction of car sharing will eliminate the production of greenhouse gases. Companies can choose what types of projects they invest in, whether they prefer apple orchards or wasteland pine forests. Each project has its own personality.

Do I need to pre-determine my carbon footprint?

We work on an ERC strategy (avoid, reduce, compensate). A carbon footprint allows us to clearly define the size of a company’s carbon footprint and implement an action plan to change its practices and reduce emissions at source. Every company enters into the logic decarbonization.

Carbon offsets are voluntary contributions. Companies can fully or partially compensate for their presence.”

Is there an international carbon offset market? It’s profitable?

Compensation at the international level is possible. However, in France we rely on a low-carbon labeling system, created about three years ago, which is overseen by the Ministry of Ecological Transition. This allows French project managers to benefit from carbon offsets. This makes it possible to finance projects on territory. This label provides scientific rigor and a basis for monitoring with certification bodies to avoid abuse.

We often hear that carbon offsets are a kind of greenwash. Is this an accepted idea?

Some companies overestimate the market, explaining this by compensating for expenses on the other side of the world. But they abdicate responsibility for their own carbon footprint. Offsetting carbon emissions must be through reduction at the source. If a company pays compensation in China or Africa, it is unlikely that it will one day see the results of its investment while links are being built in France. During the first CSR congress in Deauville, we noted that the local aspect of these projects is essential to bring coherence strategy.

Can a person rely on a low carbon label?

Some operators are open to individuals and allow them to easily buy small amounts of tons of carbon equivalent to offset their annual emissions. But it’s more business logic. The individual can act on his own purchases by turning to products with a low carbon footprint.

Is carbon offsetting technically and financially accessible to everyone?

This is an accessible practice. Companies and communities are increasingly forced to leave this carbon footprint. All companies that have taken advantage of the recovery plan will be required to do so. There are many players who offer platforms which can help small businesses build their own balance sheets. For carbon offsets, we have small project managers to make the process as accessible as possible.

How much does carbon offsetting cost?

In France, the price ranges from 20 to 80 euros per tonne of carbon equivalent. It depends on the type of project being supported. Chestnut garden in agriculture organic will not cost as much as a regular garden.

Interview conducted jointly with France Inter. Listen to the Social Lab column here.