Underlying Concepts

The Twin Imperatives: Climate Change and Sustainability

If we are to deal effectively with some of the many current and future crises that face humanity and our global ecosystems, climate change and sustainability need to be addressed simultaneously and in a reinforcing manner.

Greenhouse (aka climate change, global warming) will impact on all our attempts to improve the sustainability of our ecosystems, society and economy in ways that may overwhelm our attempts to improve sustainability.

There is a clear need to deal with climate change and its adverse effects in ways that improve the sustainability of those systems that are exacerbating emissions growth and the subsequent shortening of the timeframe in which severe adverse impacts will appear.

This is why we call climate change and sustainability the twin imperatives.

We have designed the Carbon Offset Portfolio to facilitate support for projects that improve one or both of these. We also promote the concept that projects that provide multiple benefits in addition to addressing greenhouse emissions will help improve sustainability.

Sustainability Dividend

This concept ties into the approach that projects and actions such as offsetting emissions are most effective in dealing with the twin imperatives if they provide multiple benefits.

From a greenhouse perspective, a project (or the offset associated with it) must mitigate emissions to be effective in addressing the need to avoid dangerous climate change. If the same project is able to provide other secondary benefits which help improve aspects of sustainability, then it can be considered to have created a sustainability dividend.

The sustainability dividend is vital if the money spent on addressing greenhouse emissions is to have the maximum effect possible.

Given the intertwined nature of the twin imperatives, to compartmentalise each problem and try to address it separately means ignoring the interconnected nature of these issues, increasing the effort and expenditure needed and missing exciting opportunities to rapidly improve our handling of both.

Gold Standard accreditation of greenhouse projects essentially recognises that a project has not only addressed greenhouse emissions but that it has also had a positive impact on sustainability overall.

Effect Multiplier

The concept here is that the most effective response to the twin imperatives is for each action undertaken to create multiple benefits for each unit of expenditure.

This means for instance, that for a single abatement action which costs a certain amount to implement, the results go beyond the primary emission reductions to include secondary benefits such as avoided costs or new revenue streams, decreased pollution or waste, improved resilience in the ecosystem or community, improved resource use efficiency, etc.

While it may appear simpler to focus on only the greenhouse abatement aspects of a project, by examining and slightly modifying it, multiple reinforcing benefits can be achieved which will potentially assist in getting the project approved and accredited.