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Carbon avoidance vs. carbon removal - what's the difference?

If you have read our previous blog post, Introduction to carbon offsetting, you're already familiar with a lot of the terms flying around in the carbon offset world. So, let's add a few more - dear reader, meet "carbon avoidance" and "carbon removal".

As a buyer, do you need to worry about which type your purchased carbon offsets fall into? Short answer: No. Longer answer: Also no. Both are necessary.

Meliora-carbon-avoidance-offset-windRenewable energy is one of the most efficient carbon avoidance solutions.

"Carbon avoidance" refers to activities that result in less greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere compared to what could have been. Carbon avoidance can mean for example increasing the share of renewables production in the energy mix while reducing fossil fuel-based production.

Carbon removal to change the game?

"Carbon removal" obviously means removing already existing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and storing it, ideally for millennia. Carbon removal technologies such as direct air capture (DAC), where specific chemicals are used to bind with CO2 and stored usually either in underground storage or injected into various products (for example cement), are relatively immature, but promising. The International Energy Agency listed 19 DAC plants operating globally in November 2019, so there's plenty of growth expected and required for DAC specifically to become a real player in the fight against climate change.

The World Resources Institute lists other carbon removal technologies:

  • Reforestation: Replanting trees in areas affected by natural phenomena - fires, drought, damage caused by insects, etc., or man-made changes such as mining, forestry, development, or agriculture.
  • Climate agriculture and forestry: Incentivizing farmers and natural resource owners to utilize environmentally friendly methods.
  • Carbon Dioxide Transport, Utilization, and Storage (CRD): Developing and building CO2 transportation and storage technologies to make them safe and permanent.

Carbon removal technologies can be hard to scale until they're more mature, which means that both carbon removal and carbon avoidance are critical.

Read more about the projects we offer on the Meliora platform and decide what is the best way for your company to offset and do your part in the fight to preserve our planet for future generations.