FAIR CLIMATE FUND DISTINGUISHES ITSELF IN TRADING CARBON CREDITS AT A FAIR PRICE AND WITH A LARGE SOCIAL IMPACT, PROMOTING CLIMATE NEUTRALITY FOR INDIVIDUALS, BUSINESSES AND ORGANIZATIONS BY CALCULATING CO2 EMISSIONS, OFFERING ADVICE TO REDUCE ENERGY CONSUMPTION, AND OFFSETTING THE REMAINING CARBON EMISSIONS. THE FUND SETS UP PROJECTS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES IN POOR COMMUNITIES, FOR INSTANCE, BUILDING BIOGAS UNITS IN THE KOLAR DISTRICT IN INDIA. THESE UNITS PRODUCE GAS FROM MANURE AND REPLACE THE COOKING OVER AN OPEN FIRE. THE CO2 RIGHTS THEN ARE TRADED ACCORDING TO THE GOLD STANDARD. ANOTHER PROJECT “BASA MAGOGO” (WHICH MEANS “MAKING A FIRE ACCORDING TO GRANDMA’S RECIPE”) IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN TOWNSHIPS CONCENTRATES ON HOW A FIRE FOR HEATING IS MADE.
FCF CARBON CREDITS MANAGER NADINE PLANZER EXPLAINS THEIR VISION ON REDUCING CARBON EMISSIONS THROUGH CARBON CREDITS AND OFFSETTING WHILE CONTRIBUTING TO BETTER LIVING CIRCUMSTANCES IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES.
Sanderz: FairClimateFund was founded by ICCO and Church in Action. What was the initial motivation to start this Fund?
Nadine: Climate change is a big problem, we all know that, and is affecting a lot of people all over the world especially in the developing countries. Because of ICCO’s experience working with communities and agricultural producers, they could see firsthand that climate change is having a large effect on these groups. Therefore they decided to look at how we can help these groups and in what ways, with the effects of climate change. Then there was of course this upcoming system called the carbon market where projects were started in developing countries with the aim of reducing climate change , reducing the carbon dioxide in the air. Unfortunately a lot of these projects didn’t have a strong social impact, so what ICCO wanted to do is combine the projects which reduce the effects of climate change with a large social impact.
The reason why this is so important is because you also want to pay the families for what they are delivering. They are delivering carbon credits to us, which is reducing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, even though we are producing much more carbon dioxide than they are. So actually they are delivering an environmental service by being the producers of these carbon credits meaning that they are reducing their carbon footprint while our footprint is still larger. This is sort of the idea behind developing the FairClimateFund (www.fairclimatefund.nl) . We’re paying fair prices for carbon emissions that are being produced in developing countries so we see the families and farmers there as the producers of these carbon credits.
Sanderz: FairClimateFund invests in biogasinstallations in India. What’s the difference in approach for the Basa Magogo project in South-Africa?
Nadine: First you have to look at the geographical area, the ways that the towns are set up and also look at whether there is any manure that can be used for the biogas units. In the Basa Magogo Project (literally means “a fire according to grandma’s recipes”) there is no possibility to use biogas installations in these communities simply because not every family has a cow or 5 /6 chickens and people live very close to each other not providing much room for these units. Also what’s happening in South-Africa is that the coal is not only used for cooking (biogas units are for cooking), but mainly for heating (some are for cooking if they have a stove). Mostly they use coal in barrels, they light it and use it for heat. It can get quite cold in South-Africa. So it is not possible to give them an improved cook stove or anything related to cooking, because there it is about heating and the coal is in abundance. The coal is cheap, people work in the coalmines, and it is all around them in that area. Then we have to look at the way, the behavior and how they are lighting these coals and it made a proven difference in the amount of coal that is being used and also the amount of smoke that is created when burning the coals. So you can change that dramatically by what you have basically.
Sanderz: The amount of investment is in the way how much carbon emissions they reduce?
Nadine: Correct. You look at a baseline, what it would be normally in the regular situation when they do not use the Basa Magogo method and then you look at the situation when they do use it. Then you look at what the reduction is. You make a measurement what the baseline is. They don’t do that with one family, but with the whole area when they take a sample size. They look at the whole country and all the people using coal and how much they are using and what the emission is and then the Basa Magogo is tested and then you look at what the reduction is. This is all being calculated in a methodology that is registered by the Gold Standard Foundation which is the highest standard.
Sanderz: Can you comment on the objection on carbon credits that we should take care of our own CO2 emissions rather than buying clean air in developing countries?
Nadine: First you need to make your footprint to understand how much you are emitting and in what areas and then you have to look at how you can reduce that as much as possible. We give advice to various companies, how they should be able to do that. You can never completely reduce your whole footprint, there is always some carbon being emitted. So rather than doing nothing we suggest that it’s better to help us develop more of these projects and you can do that by purchasing carbon credits because this goes directly into the investment of these projects.
Sanderz: What exactly is a climatically-neutral company according to your standards?
Nadine: First you have to identify what area you’re focusing on. Are you just going to neutralize your flights, the building or your whole company, the energy you use, the travel your employees undertake or are you also looking at the products and services that you have as a company. So when you say, this company is climate neutral you need to make sure that you define what they have neutralized. That is what we also do with our client; perhaps one client focuses on climate neutral products and the other client on cars and another on their flights.
Sanderz: The remainder of their emissions they are going to offset?
Nadine: A company can decide to do that. First we start by making a carbon footprint of the company. You take in several different factors, then you calculate the total amount of carbon released per year and then we can identify how to reduce the footprint. When we have a three year contract with a company, for instance, our aim is also to reduce the yearly emission and not just offset the same amount every year. We identify where it is increasing and where it is decreasing and what we can do, what measures we can implement and then, if you choose you can compensate the remainder of your emissions by offsetting.
Sanderz: What can you tell me about the re- or progression in willingness amongst individuals and companies to offset their footprint?
Nadine: The curiosity is high and the willingness is a little lower; People ask a lot of questions about our service, because they may not understand the concept, just as the way you started your interview by asking “are we not just buying off our guilt”, why don’t we make the change first. People and companies have these perceptions, which is good, because indeed we need to reduce our own footprint in our own measures, but I think once we explain the reasons why we are doing what we’re doing and explain what kind of projects we have and how they are making a difference by reducing emissions in a developing country where they wouldn’t have ‘before’, because there wasn’t any financing to get a project going, then the willingness to offset is more.
So when you explain this, then people are more willing to do it, especially when you look at ways to reduce yourself and then you can focus on either you do nothing and you still have the rest amount being emitted or you can do something which actually improve the lives of these people in other countries as well. And economically seen it is also encouraging people to do other activities. For instance the woman who usually have to search for wood for maybe 5/6 hours a day now only need 2 hours because they use less wood. They have now time to focus on economic activities which improves their standard of living.
Sanderz: What about the problem that people are inclined to see this more as development aid rather than fighting climate change?
Nadine: It’s about how you present and promote yourself in the market. Actually we are busy right now changing the look and feel of our website and getting our message across in a better way. Basically our message is that we pay a fair price for carbon credits and by doing this we are actually encouraging economic growth in the areas and encouraging a switch to cleaner energy rather than saying that it is just development aid. So I think it is really about having a clear message which we’re working on at the moment.
Sanderz: What does a FCF campaign entail to make Companies climatically neutral?
Nadine: Last year we had some campaigns for example radio spots on national stations, TV commercial on regional TV and we had Loretta Schrijver (TV presenter/ News anchor ) doing a commercial on the radio in the summertime trying to reach out to companies as well as consumers. We did mailing to see would that work at all. We do social media. We’re reaching out to companies who were also busy anyways in sustainable activities. We are part of platforms, different events and groups like Smart City (www.aimsterdam.nl), and we go to conferences. You pick out which conferences would be best to go to, in order to meet people to reach out and get other companies to do more. Regular desktop research to determine target groups is done and cold calling even, if need be.
Actually, the best way to reach out to clients is through our warm network. The warm network of ICCO and others around us. We give presentations to our warm network so they understand what we are doing exactly and then it’s easier for them to promote us. Then if someone is interested in climate neutrality, looking at climate initiatives, or looking at being more sustainable, we tell them please introduce us and then we take it from there and we do vice versa for their business or service. So it’s also tapping into the warm network.
You need to be active like this especially when it’s not a traditional product or service. It’s not a sandwich people are buying; it’s still a grey area for a lot of people and companies. You need to be able to communicate the message and be able to find the groups.
Sanderz: Are there any different kinds of projects in the making?
Nadine: Yes, we just signed up a new project also in India, Southern India, near the region of Koppal and it’s about improved cooking stoves, so it’s not about changing the ways and habits of how people are lighting the fires, but it is actually providing them with an improved cook stove. It’s called a rocket stove which is going to replace the traditional stove.
We’re working with a local partner who has been working in the community for 25 years who often do other activities all around the project with self help groups and sustainable agriculture and they reach out to the communities by also introducing the improved cook stove. They teach them about climate change, what they can do to reduce their own footprint. It’s involving the people. Every participant gets a user agreement with their fingerprint on it. So they are aware of who we are and why they are in this project, and what their responsibility is. It’s a highly integrated project with a lot of social impacts. We’re very proud to have signed up this project and hopefully it will go into production in about a week.
Sanderz: The question we ask all interviewees: What do you do in your daily live to reduce your carbon footprint?
Nadine: I live in my boyfriend’s house at the current time, and he has been taught very well by his mother to keep the heat very low at 17-18 degrees Celsius, even during a cold winter, and when he sleeps the heat goes off. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t used to that because I used to live in Canada with my mom 10-15 years ago, and Canada is really freezing cold. So we had the heat on quite high during the winter, because the heat was free back then. We were using quite a lot of heat and I was used to 24-25 degrees. That’s too hot! I have adapted myself and it’s also better for the environment. It’s something that you need to do.
I always ride my bike . I choose not to take vehicles. I also choose to eat as little meat as possible, being vegetarian as much as I can. I try not to fly, and when I can, I prefer taking a train. But yeah, I guess I could work on travelling a little less, even though it is my passion. It’s definitely something I need to work on. I also switched over to green energy. My energy provider is listed #8, better than others but it’s still more in the grey area than the green area so I need to look at switching to Greenchoice (www.greenchoice.nl) or Windunie (www.windunie.nl) next year.