Carbon storage – Good or bad for the environment?

Carbon storage – Good or bad

The answer to that should be obvious. The reason we talk so much about carbon storage is that we want to protect the environment. Our politicians have decided that by 2050, Europe should be climate neutral. Leading scientists claim that global emissions must be cut in half within the next decade. Thousands of companies say they will contribute by buying carbon offsets. But does that really help the environment?

Carbon storage – Good or bad
Photo: Chris LeBoutillier,

Carbon storage – Good or bad?

We have written a lot about carbon storage here at About the EU Taxonomy, how forest owners can gain from it, how the industry can gain from it, and much more. But do the actions that we make actually help the environment? How much of the carbon storage that has been traded would have been carbon storage anyway?

I stumbled over an article by Bloomberg from December 2020, that pointed out some examples of carbon offsets being bought by large companies in areas that were never intended to be felled. That means it doesn’t make any good for the environment at all. And in the meantime, according to the article, some of the offset buyers continue flying their private jets and sailing their sea cruisers as ever before.

”When the credits represent no actual carbon reduction, it’s a setback the planet can’t afford.”

Exceptions from the rule?

Even though the examples mentioned in the Bloomberg article were large forest areas, my spontaneous thought was that these must be exceptions. But then I thought about the Swedish forest owner that we wrote about who sold carbon storage in a stand that was already thinned and shouldn’t be touched again in 50 years. He is, of course, a smart forest owner. But does that action do any good for the environment?

No, as he didn’t intend to do anything there for the next 50 years anyway. It’s purely “Money for Nothing” in his case.

Luckily, we have also written about examples of profitable carbon storage that do make a difference. Like planting and fertilizing projects that, at least theoretically, increase carbon storage in the forest. To let the forest be some extra years before the clearcut is also good. E.g., the fact that the Swedish State Forest decided to cut down on felling in their forests most likely means that more carbon will be stored.

And of course, producing lumber and engineered wood instead of short-lived products like paper and cardboard, will make the carbon stay in buildings, furniture, etc. instead of leaking out into the atmosphere.

But is it good or bad?

The question hasn’t been answered. All initiatives to lower carbon emissions are good, I guess. But one might think that to achieve that one has to be more cautious of what the investment is. To pay money for “saving” forests that shouldn’t have been felled anyway seem less intelligent (But I still like to call forest owners who make a profit on it “smart”, the “less intelligent” are the buyers). Planting, fertilizing and waiting some extra years before clear-cut seems better.

One thing I learned from the Bloomberg article is that carbon dioxide is a global gas. This means that it doesn’t matter where you take action. It mixes with the atmosphere and spreads around the World.

So, the answer is that there are both good and bad examples (as in the rest of the World). The conclusion is: If you want to make good – aim for the good examples.


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