Africa sees 1st carbon-neutral brewery amid climate concerns

Original article was written by Neil Shaw, associated press. 
Darling, South Africa — Jul 21, 2018, 5:24 AM ET, Click here to view full article.

A South African brewery is said to be the first in Africa to go carbon-neutral as more businesses across the continent adjust to climate change, and as consumers become more careful about the products they buy.

Darling Brewery, in a village near Cape Town, decreased its carbon footprint by using water and energy more efficiently — then brought it to zero in April by purchasing carbon credits at a reforestation project in Zimbabwe.

The brewery’s overhaul comes as South Africa’s Cape region emerges from an extreme drought that saw the city of Cape Town, population 4 million, rationing water and warning of a “Day Zero” when taps would run dry. The crisis has eased amid water conservation efforts.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand what carbon-neutral means or what impact all the businesses around us are having on the environment,” said the brewery’s owner, Kevin Wood. “The damage being done by climate change has a lot to do with our carbon footprint. Just look at the extreme weather here in the Western Cape.”

Greenhouse gas emissions have damaging environmental impacts such as global warming, acid rain and ozone layer damage, according to the sustainability consultant who conducted a greenhouse gas audit on the brewery, Andre Harms.

Darling Brewery was already known for raising environmental issues via the labels on the 17 beers it produces, educating drinkers about Africa’s threatened wildlife.

Now the labels tell drinkers about the brewery’s carbon-neutral status. “They’ll start connecting the dots and change their consumption habits to more environmentally friendly products,” Wood said.

Darling Brewery opened in 2010 as the craft beer sector exploded in South Africa. When the brewery opened there were 30 others and today there are around 215, according to beer journalist Lucy Corne.

She said craft brewery consumers are more likely to be aware of their carbon footprint than regular beer drinkers, as craft beer is a niche product that only South Africa’s middle class and above can afford.

“I think what Darling Brewery has done is really great for the industry,” Corne said, adding that the shift to carbon-neutral could get other breweries thinking about sustainability measures. “They’re leading the way.”

Globally there are only a handful of carbon-neutral breweries, experts say.

Sustainability consultant Franz Rentel confirmed that Darling Brewery is the first carbon-neutral one in Africa. He said he thinks more companies will follow its example.

South Africa will introduce a carbon credit tax by January, which will affect large emitters and is expected to make products from carbon-neutral companies “the cheaper option,” Rentel said.

As more countries put such taxes into place, large breweries could move toward carbon neutrality as well.

Darling Brewery’s brew master, Rene du Toit, said going carbon-neutral is not just about doing the right thing. “A lot of the measures you put in place to reduce your carbon footprint . make economic sense in the long run: You’re paying less for your water, you’re paying less for your energy, you’re putting out less solid waste.”

Sitting at one of Cape Town’s trendy bars, beer lover Nicole McCreedy said choosing to drink a carbon-neutral Darling Brewery beer is about supporting a progressive South African initiative.

“We’ll see far more of (that) globally, I hope,” she said.

Also interested to be a front-runner and make your products climate neutral? Contact us today via franz.rentel@climateneutralgroup.com and receive more information. We will be happy to assist you and walk this journey together with you.

 

climate change bill, climate change bill south africa, south african carbon law, implementation carbon tax, climate neutral group

First African company announces science-based greenhouse gas target

Original article was published on engineering on 19 July 2018, Click here to view full article.
Emira Property Fund has become the first African and South African company to have a greenhouse gas emissions target approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

The initiative is a collaboration between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) which mobilises companies to set science-based targets and boost their competitive advantage in the transition to the low-carbon economy.

In a statement, WWF South Africa said Emira’s science-based target provided a clear road map in line with the ambition of the Paris climate agreement to keep global warming below 2°C. It sets out how much and how quickly the company will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Emira has committed to reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions 13% by 2022, from a 2015 base year.

 

“We congratulate Emira Property Fund on becoming the first South African company to have their emission reduction targets validated by the Science Based Targets initiative,” the WWF’s Alex Farsan said.

 

“By setting targets that align their business with global efforts to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, Emira Property Fund is positioning itself to thrive as the global economy transitions to a low-carbon future.”

Science-based targets are validated by technical experts and can help to safeguard a company’s growth and profitability by keeping business relevant and competitive during a transition to a low-carbon economy.

These targets can also help companies buffer themselves against imminent national policy changes like the South African Carbon Tax Bill, due to be passed in January 2019.

Ten other South African companies, namely ExxaroGrowthpointMediclinicNetcare, Pick ‘n Pay, SPARTiger BrandsTongaatVirgin Active SA and Woolworths have already committed to the international effort to limit global temperature rise with the SBTi, but have yet to have their emissions targets validated.

Are you ready to take your measures to the next step and set science base targets for your company or organization? Contact our expert Silvana Claassen today, silvana.claassen@climateneutralgroup.com for more information.

 

Nishanthi Lambrichs, carbon advisor, carbon advisor south africa, carbon tax, climate neutral group, carbon tax, south africa carbon tax, south african carbon tax, implementation carbon tax, south africa carbon tax

CNG in the Event Greening Forum spotlights

The Event Greening Forum interviewed Nishanthi Lambrichs, CNG carbon advisor and Programme Manager for GreenDreams and GreenSeat. Both initiatives were developed by us to help the accommodation and the travel sectors, respectively, take action on climate change.

Q. WHEN AND WHY DID YOU, PERSONALLY, START TO DEVELOP AN AWARENESS ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY, AND A DESIRE TO CHAMPION IT THROUGH YOUR WORK?

Growing up in a country where it’s the norm to separate your waste, cycle everywhere and take public transport on a daily basis, creates a certain awareness for green living and sustainability. Moving to South Africa was a wake-up call in many ways. I worked in the event industry in the Netherlands and the sustainability aspects are important topics on the agenda. When I moved to South Africa, I realised that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. This inspired me to get involved in the sustainability sector; help set the standard and raise awareness in order to create change.

Q. WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT CLIMATE NEUTRAL GROUP SOUTH AFRICA, AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT IT?

I’m a carbon advisor at CNG and mainly focus on assisting companies within the hospitality industry to gain insight into their carbon footprint, enabling them to reduce and offset their emissions. Our GreenDreams initiative helps hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses in South Africa put measures in place to take responsibility for their environmental impact. [You can read an article on The Maslow’s success with this programme here.] I’m also responsible for GreenSeat: our carbon initiative for the travel sector (we would like to refer to it as the boarding pass to climate neutral flying). We offer several unique tools that help businesses measure, change and finally green their business travel habits.

And, last but not least, there’s Climate Neutral Events. The first step we take to create a carbon neutral event would be to get insights into your event’s carbon footprint in order to set a baseline. The second step is to set targets and reduce your carbon footprint. And, because we, unfortunately, can’t reduce the footprint to zero carbon emissions, investing in offsets is a great way to reduce your climate impact. Assisting companies during this journey and making this world a little greener is what motivates me to go to work every morning.

Q. DOES CLIMATE NEUTRAL OFFSET ITS OWN CARBON FOOTPRINT, AND IF SO, HOW? 

Yes, we do offset our own carbon footprint with a basket of various Gold Standard projects: Biogas Tanzania, Kenya and Cambodia.

Q. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE CARBON OFFSET PROJECT YOU’D LIKE TO TELL US ABOUT?

There are currently two projects within our portfolio that I really like. The Wonderbag and, our latest addition, Boreholes in Africa. The Wonderbag is a non-electric heat-retention cooker that allows food that has been brought to the boil by conventional methods to continue to cook for up to 12 hours without using additional energy usage. The Wonderbag offset has significant sustainable development benefits. Firstly, the program creates employment in South Africa, where the bags are used in large numbers. Secondly, field surveys indicate that users of the bags have reduced fuel bills and finally, there is published evidence that reduced consumption of fossil fuels drives down illnesses caused by fumes, smoke, and soot.

The Boreholes in Africa initiative operates in Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, and Eritrea. Here, like anywhere else in the world, clean drinking water is vitally important. Offsetting 1 tonne of CO2 translates into 1.405 litres of clean drinking water for rural households. I think this is a great offset project, especially since access to water is one of the highest threats climate change poses.

Q. IF YOU COULD WAVE A MAGIC WAND AND CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT THE SA EVENTS INDUSTRY TO MAKE IT MORE SUSTAINABLE, WHAT WOULD THAT ONE THING BE?

I find it difficult to pin this down to just one thing, as there are still so many aspects we need to work on. Education and creating awareness for what we try to accomplish is very important though. People need to get a better understanding of what will happen if we don’t take action because we are destroying our beautiful planet if we continue like this.

Transport is an important topic as well, especially since people in South Africa are so used to driving by themselves in their own car to events etc. Of course, safety is playing an important role in this, but organizing more shared transport for events would be a great start. On top of that a lot of people are flying in from different cities, therefore, it would be great to make flight offsetting the norm.

Personally, I’m big on plastic, we should really stop using it, and make conscious decisions to do so as event organizers. For example no straws, but supply bamboo straws instead. At the end of the day, it is better to start with something small, rather than doing nothing at all.

Silvana Claassen, carbon advisor, carbon advisor south africa, carbon tax, climate neutral group, carbon tax, south africa carbon tax, south african carbon tax, implementation carbon tax, south africa carbon tax date

Welcome to the CNG Team: Silvana Claassen

Global climate change awareness is growing, particularly in terms of what companies can do to reduce and eliminate their environmental impacts and become corporate climate action leaders. Climate Neutral Group, as a result, has been growing too! Earlier this year we welcomed senior carbon advisor Silvana Claassen to our South African team.

1) Why and when did you join Climate Neutral Group?

I joined Climate Neutral Group on 1 April 2018 after a very inspiring meeting with its country director Franz. I figured that my own aspirations to contribute to climate change management and mitigation are in line with Climate Neutral Group’s mission and vision.

2) What do you hope to achieve as a carbon adviser at Climate Neutral Group?

I am passionate about helping businesses understand how climate change can impact their organisations and how they can adapt to the dynamics involved with South Africa’s transition to a low carbon economy. I would love to play an active role in this. I have to note that the country’s journey, including the recent promulgation of the Emissions Reporting Regulations, its carbon tax measures and the approval of the Climate Change Bill, is in line with the objectives of the National Development Plan (NDP). This government-initiated strategy aims to foster inclusive and sustainable economic growth, eliminate poverty, and reduce inequality whilst protecting the environment.

3) What has been the highlight since you joined Climate Neutral Group?

What has stood out are the face-to-face dialogues with several clients. These have contributed to an increased understanding of the challenges these businesses, and the country’s private sector as a whole, are facing when it comes to managing their greenhouse gas emissions.

4) How important is it that companies in South Africa (and beyond) start and up their efforts to minimise their impact on the planet?

Having specialised in the matter since 2011, I know climate change is a genuine threat to the planet, to every living being, and to every single business. Global action by companies in South Africa and elsewhere, as well as measures from governments and citizens, is fundamental to protect the planet for current and future generations. We all need to become corporate climate action leaders.

5) How important is offsetting to mitigate climate change?

Offsetting is necessary to achieve carbon neutrality, or at least to mitigate emissions that would not have occurred without it. It is a tool that is used to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions that are unavoidable given the current state of technology. Last but certainly not least, fighting climate change also forms part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Because of my background and the work I do, I fully support these 17 goals, which were adopted in 2015.

6) What are your three best tips for carbon tax-liable companies who seek to become climate neutral?

Start by measuring your organisation’s carbon footprint to understand the impact of your business activities in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Secondly, talk to a carbon specialist to design a meaningful strategy to reduce your footprint, set future reduction targets and identify cost-effective measures to enable achieving these targets. Finally, offset what you can’t avoid and make an impact somewhere else through the purchase of carbon credits from verified offset projects. It is important to know offsetting has socioeconomic benefits too, such as improved (indoor) air-quality, women empowerment, and food security.

Report: carbon offsetting benefits & drivers

Business Leadership on Climate Action: Drivers and Benefits of Offsetting, a 2017 report by the International Carbon Reduction & Offset Alliance (ICROA), looks at the demand for carbon credits, explains what drives businesses to offset their emissions, and goes into the various carbon offsetting benefits for companies in South Africa and beyond. A summary of the report is found below.

ICROA: Understanding Business Leadership on Climate Action

More can be done to increase action on climate change and close the gap on the global goal of a two degree limit. There is a disconnect between where science says we need to be and how far the Paris Agreement will take us, and the voluntary carbon market is crucial in bridging that gap.

This report considers the current demand for carbon offsetting, what drives businesses to use it as one of its solutions to climate change, and what the benefits are.

Its findings were taken from responses to a survey developed by Imperial College London in consultation with the UNFCCC and ICROA and conducted among respondents across a wide range of sectors, including private, public and non-profit / NGOs.

Putting it all together: recommendations

Based on the report’s key findings, the following recommendations can be put forward to further promote the uptake of offsetting as a solution to bridge the ambition gap on the global goal of a 2°C limit:

1. Carbon offset projects make a valuable contribution to the reduction of GHG emissions. Better recognition of this contribution would demonstrate the value to companies in meeting their climate goals and motivate more businesses to invest in voluntary offsetting. Additionally, this research shows that:

  • There is a positive correlation between knowledge of the voluntary carbon market and confidence in its effectiveness to reduce GHG emissions. A broader understanding of the market from the corporate world would help grow demand
  • Better awareness of the role of offsetting within the carbon management plans of climate leaders would also increase demand

2. Offset buyers should measure their return from investing in voluntary carbon offset projects. 49% of respondents in this survey said they have experienced tangible benefits from voluntary offsetting, though in most cases these benefits are not being measured. Better data on these benefits would help build the case for companies to take voluntary action

3. Demonstrating co-benefits, in addition to carbon mitigation, will increase the return on investment. In turn, this will increase the willingness to invest in voluntary offsetting

This article was published on www.icroa.org.


Work with Climate Neutral Group to measure, reduce and offset your carbon emissions – for better, greener and more competitive business operations! For more information on the various carbon offsetting benefits for your organisation, click here or contact Nishanthi on Nishanthi.lambrichs@climateneutralgroup.com!

New Standard Launched to Accelerate and Measure Progress Toward the Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Targets

Climate Neutral Group is very excited about the publication of the Gold Standard for the Global Goals, which will allow private and public entities to certify a wide range of sustainability benefits and thereby contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Geneva, Switzerland, 10 July 2017.  Gold Standard launches Gold Standard for the Global Goals, a new standard to quantify, certify and maximise the contributions of climate and development interventions toward the Paris Climate Agreement and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The standard is set to help those who fund life-changing climate and development projects around the world – including businesses, governments and investors – to measure, report and track the full range of benefits they have contributed to. Supported by WWF and other international NGOs, it is also anticipated that the best practice standard will protect against accusations of ‘green-washing’ as well as open up new avenues of funding for large-scale programmes, like green infrastructure and sustainable supply chain interventions around the world.

Marion Verles, Chief Executive Officer of Gold Standard, said: “If we are to keep global warming well below 2 Degrees Celsius and meet the Sustainable Development Goals, climate action must be holistic and high-impact, helping the world develop on a sustainable pathway. SDGs are becoming a huge priority for a range of public and private sector organisations, but accurately measuring and reporting progress has presented a major challenge. Our new standard quantifies and certifies the many additional benefits Gold Standard projects deliver beyond carbon mitigation – for example by providing access to clean energy and water, creating jobs, improving health or protecting natural habitats – providing those who run or fund projects with new opportunities to measure and report their impact.”

Ambassador Franz Xaver Perrez, Head of the International Affairs Division for Switzerland’s Federal Office for the Environment, said: “When Switzerland looks at its options for meeting parts of its Paris target, we want to ensure that international carbon markets increase global mitigation ambition and encourage activities that go as far as possible toward the greater good. Climate mitigation projects that include strong sustainable development provisions, like those to be certified under Gold Standard for the Global Goals, make achieving the 2030 Agenda closer within reach.”

As well as incentivising more ambitious climate action from public and private sector bodies, the new standard is expected to unlock billions of dollars of funding needed to scale-up clean technology and sustainable development in cities around the globe. Cities emit around 75% of global CO2 emissions, yet less than 15% of global climate finance has reached cities as, according to the World Bank, only 4% of the largest 500 cities in the developing world are credit worthy in international markets. The Standard’s Urban Development module will help developers design and implement best practice projects, and quantify and communicate climate and development impacts such as cleaner air and improved health, to attract investment and gain public support.


 Working with Climate Neutral Group = progressively working towards achieving the SDGs

By REDUCING your carbon emissions you are working towards SDG 9, 11 and 13. By OFFSETTING your emissions, you are going the extra mile. This can be done by implementing, rolling out and investing in clean energy projects from which local communities benefit too. You will be supporting SDG 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6

We offer a range of Gold Standard offset projects:

Work with us to reduce and offset your carbon emissions, save money, help achieve the SDGs, fight climate change, and improve the lives of others.

For more information click here or contact Nishanthi on Nishanthi.lambrichs@climateneutralgroup.com

For more information read the full press release here.

The future is carbon-Priced and the US is getting left behind

Written by: Kristin Eberhard, on June 6, 2017 

As the US pulls out of the Paris Accord, other countries charge ahead towards a clean energy future.

A little over a year ago, 195 countries signed on to the historic Paris Climate Accord to limit global warming pollution. This year, the United States pointed a loaded gun at its own foot, and President Trump pulled the trigger, announcing he will withdraw from the agreement. But the rest of the world is moving ahead with carbon pricing programs that will give other countries a head start in the race to a clean energy economy. Notably, The United States’ neighbors to the north and south are adopting national carbon pricing programs in 2018, and the European Union and China are allying to become global leaders in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Nations and regions making progress

Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

North Americans are warming to dividends

The carbon prices already in place were worth about $50 billion in 2016, and international action coordinated by the Paris Accord could generate a new stream of revenue in participating nations in future years. Nations and states use the revenue to reduce other taxes, fund clean energy projects,and fill budget holes. And some jurisdictions give some revenue back to the people. The idea of carbon dividends, making polluters pay, and then writing people a check (similar to what Alaska does with taxes on oil production) is gaining ground in North America.interesting?

Author and entrepreneur Peter Barnes has long advocated for the idea that we all have an ownership share in common assets. More than a decade ago, he asked, “who owns the sky?”More recently, he asked, if Thomas Piketty is right that those who make money by owning things keep making more while those who make money by working keep making relatively less, how can we sustain our middle class, our democracy, and our planet? His answer to both questions is: we all have a share in the world’s natural resources, and, like shareholders, we all should receive dividend checks.

Canadians like the idea: Alberta’s carbon tax includes a small rebate, and the federal plan will send some money back to individuals. For nearly a decade, British Columbia has used carbon tax revenue to give money back to people in the form of income tax credit—not as transparent as dividend checks, but a similar idea. Now, BC plans to increase and expand its tax and use the new revenue to deliver rebate checks to ensure a majority of British Columbians are better off financially.

In the United States, California’s cap-and-trade program has always included a dividend in the form of a “climate credit” on everyone’s utility bill. But dividends are the heart of the new roposal for a revolutionary upgrade to California’s program. Between 50 and 90 percent of carbon revenue would go right back to individuals, so everyone in the state would get a check in the mail every quarter. Even if oil corporations ginned up fear that the carbon price was getting too high, everyday people would cheer because their checks would get bigger.

Many working on the California bill see dividends as critical to the bill’s success. California requires a two-thirds majority to pass new taxes, and Chevron sponsored an under-the-radar campaign to pass Prop. 26 in 2010, changing the definition of “tax” to ensure it applies to cap-and-trade too. As a result, California climate advocates must attract some conservative support for the new bill.

Californians’ hope that a carbon dividend might bridge the partisan divide that has stymied progress in the United States may be well-founded. After all, a few months ago, a group of prominent Republicans released the Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends, complete with a TED Talk and meetings with White House officials.

Advocates in Washington DC are also pushing a carbon fee and rebate.

The US hangs back, but the world moves forward

Countries and regions continue to march forward with carbon pricing. China, after years of experience with nine regional carbon pricing programs, is almost ready to institute a national program. Canada and Mexico are also set to roll out national programs. Meanwhile, the United States the United States lags. But California’s trailblazing climate efforts, and some conservative thought leadership on dividends, is laying promising groundwork for US action.

South African business and industries are taking steps towards mitigating the impacts of the proposed carbon tax legislation on their operations and investments. Climate neutral group has services such as the Carbon TaxScan, which helps businesses to measure and understand the amount of carbon tax the business is due to pay. You can reduce your business’ carbon tax liability even further by purchasing carbon tax offsets from our eligible South African offset projects.

Would you like to find out how much carbon tax your business might need to pay, click here for more information or contact on franz.rentel@climateneutralgroup.com 

 

IMPACT OF THE US WITHDRAWING OF THE PARIS AGREEMENT

IETA made the following statement about the fact that the US has announced to withdraw itself from the Paris Agreement. We at Climate Neutral Group support this statement.

STATEMENT IETA: 

Genève, 2017, June 1st

As was widely reported, President Donald Trump announced plans today for the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. We issued a press statement, noting our disappointment and reiterating our intention to continue to work with US states, sub national authorities and nations interested in advancing market based solutions to climate change.

This decision was not a surprise. Trump made a pledge during the election campaign to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Many Paris supporters urged him to reconsider – from US corporate CEOs to heads of state to the Pope and other religious leaders. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other cabinet colleagues urged him to remain in the agreement, but EPA Chief Scott Pruitt and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon reportedly pushed for exiting the agreement. Trump said that he decided to withdraw out of concern for the US economy.

We have seen strong reactions from many world leaders. It will take some time to understand all of the ramifications of the exit, both technical and political. We wanted to offer our initial thoughts about potential impacts, since you are probably gathering your own thoughts and reactions.

  1. Obviously, this is a big disappointment, because it weakens the strong show of unity around the Paris Agreement. But, as a consequence, we expect many other countries – and companies— to quickly rally around the Paris Agreement. The G7 statement last week was encouraging, as is the announcement expected tomorrow from the EU and China on enhanced cooperation on climate change.
  2. Given past experiences with the US withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, we expect California and the northeast RGGI states to enhance their own carbon market and climate policy agendas. Other states, from Virginia and Pennsylvania to Washington and Oregon, could become more ambitious on carbon pricing, given the void of federal leadership.
  3. Pressure from investor groups on US corporations will intensify. The climate risk shareholder resolutions at Exxon and Chevron this week are one example.
  4. We received several press inquiries (CNBC, CNN, Reuters, among others) about the possible trade sanctions that could be triggered by Trump’s decision. We emphasised that we believe in cooperation on climate change through markets, highlighting in particular Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. We also said that interest in border taxes or other trade restrictions could be reignited, but that it is a complicated subject – and could escalate in a harmful way. We urged calm and caution.

We will be tracking developments closely in the coming weeks, and we will do our best to keep you informed. We know this is a difficult development, but we encourage all IETA members to continue to speak out for market-based solutions for climate change and to encourage our colleagues in the US to forge ahead. A better day will come.

​Spekboom can fix ecosystems, create jobs and suck up CO2 – if SA gets a carbon tax

This article was published on the 24 May on mg.co.za

Written By Sipho Kings, the Mail & Guardian’s environment reporter, on 26 July, 2017

Spekboom was meant to be the ultimate symbol of sustainable development, a plant that could fix ecosystems and making farmers bucketloads of money. Then the world economy crashed and progress towards a local carbon tax stalled.

A few projects are chugging along, showing the potential of the indigenous plant to rehabilitate large parts of the country. But the shine has gone.

“This was going to be the big breakthrough for climate change. Instead of just being a victim, South Africa could plant spekboom, which would soak up carbon emissions and do so in a profitable manner,” says Professor Richard Cowling, who was there for the test project in 2004.

His name is on much of the research into how planting a 2.5m-tall evergreen succulent could transform the rural parts of the Eastern and Western Cape.

But that research now catalogues potential, not reality. “Maybe there was too much hype, so people expected too much of a miracle solution,” he says.

Cowling lives in Cape St Francis, with the restless blue Indian Ocean on one side and the rhythmic rotation of dozens of wind turbines on the other. This was an area that was almost impassable a century ago, given the dense thicket of spekboom that covered the coastal belt. The plant was a favourite of elephants. Thousands crashed through the thicket, eating the top leaves and spreading the seeds.

Then came the farmers who cut away the spekboom to introduce irrigated crops and livestock such as goats. The latter ate spekboom from the bottom up, ruining millennia of adaptation. With the food gone and land use changed, only a few hundred elephant remain in Addo Elephant Park.

All this broke the local ecosystem. Now, when the winter rain falls it washes away topsoil. This flows into dams, silting them up. Little water infiltrates deep into the ground to recharge aquifers. And none of this is good for farming, a bulwark of the local economy that formally employs 7% of the province’s workers.

Fixing ecosystems could turn this around. But planting spekboom is expensive and the plant grows slowly. It also means farmers have to take a leap of faith, converting land that makes money now into something that creates longer-term value. That’s where climate change and spekboom come in.

Because it is evolved to survive the arid conditions of the Karoo, spekboom has a few unique tricks. In winter, when it gets moisture from cold fronts, it photosynthesises like any other plant. In summer, it absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) during the day but stores this away without photosynthesising. Instead, it does this at night so no water evaporates. That moisture is then stored as carbon compounds in the spekboom’s leaves, stems and roots.

In other words, the plant is really good at sucking carbon dioxide out of the air, something the world needs. Carbon dioxide levels are currently at 400 parts per million, their highest concentration in three million years.

Carbon trading schemes were introduced to lower CO2 concentration. Companies that emit carbon buy credits to offset against the carbon tax. Those credits pay for people to carry out activities to reduce the emissions, such as plant spekboom.

In the mid-2000s, this looked to be extremely profitable. Research by the Rhodes University-based Subtropical Thicket Restoration Programme found that a farmer could earn R440 000 a hectare each year by planting spekboom.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian in 2008, Anthony Mills, then of Stellenbosch University’s department of soil science, said: “The bottom line is that the carbon market is booming and creating carbon credits is likely to be profitable.” At that time, companies were buying carbon credits for between €10 (about R130 then) and €20 a tonne of carbon emitted. Mills said the price was expected to reach €60 by 2030. That would mean R2.6-million a year per hectare for farmers.

Startups seized on this. Airlines advertised the fact that paying a bit extra on a fare would plant spekboom in rural South Africa. The money started to flow. Farmers in the southern part of the Eastern Cape started converting hundreds of hectares of land to spekboom. This was especially useful in an area where farmers were turning to wildlife as a source of income — spekboom is a good source of food.

Then came the 2008 financial crash. The bottom fell out of the carbon market. Carbon credits are now €5 (about R75) a tonne. That has all but destroyed the dream of spekboom. Without lucrative profits, farmers cannot afford the tens of thousands needed to convert their land.

But part of the spekboom project is surviving. Through the environment department’s Working for Land programme, R45-million has been invested in more than 7 000 hectares, creating jobs in areas where there is no industry.

Ecosystems become valuable to politicians when they create jobs. This guarantees a budget. Research by the Development Bank of South Africa, titled Natural Resource Management: An Employment Catalyst, shows that fixing ecosystems is a big job creator. It calculates that 500 000 jobs could be created “if the prevailing environmental challenges are to be addressed more actively”. Spekboom is a small but integral part of that future.

Overseeing this future is the environment department’s Dr Christo Marais, head of its chief directorate for environmental protection and infrastructure programmes.

Forever visiting projects, he is a difficult man to contact. An initial email gets the response: “The thicket project is still very much alive.” A call follows. “We have problems with the deadly sins that bring fatalities [to spekboom]: frost, drought and grazing. But things are looking good.”

Without the backing of lucrative carbon credits, Marais spends his time convincing farmers that fixing ecosystems makes sense — in this instance, more water, particularly underground. But that’s water that you cannot see, he says. “A farmer wants to see his dam and see that there is water in that dam.”

The current drought has helped his argument, as have the valleys where rehabilitation has meant once-dry rivers now flow again. “Farmers talk. It’s a slow process because we are working with a small budget, but each example means more people get interested in fixing their local ecosystem.”

That could be given a huge boost should the South African carbon market take off. Taxed at R120 a tonne on carbon emissions, companies could invest in projects such as spekboom. With 500-million tonnes of carbon emitted each year in South Africa, the treasury has said the potential for stimulating local projects is big.

But the tax is being blocked by companies and government departments that say it would lead to factories closing and job loss.

Because of this, spekboom’s potential to improve local ecosystems dramatically, provide jobs and slow global warming will remain just that — a potential.

South African business and industry is taking  steps towards mitigating the impacts of the proposed carbon tax legislation on their operations and investments.

Rather than viewing the carbon tax as potentially increasing costs, Climate Neutral Group will help you find opportunities to drive innovation and to develop creative ways to implement efficiencies.

One of our services is Carbon TaxCoach which helps companies to decrease their future carbon tax as well as developing a robust carbon tax offset purchase strategy.

Would you like to know more about our carbon tax solutions, click here  and for more information contact Franz Rentel on franz.rentel@climateneutralgroup.com

The Peninsula Offsets Conferencing Carbon Footprint

Posted by: TourismTattler, 24 April 2017

With a drive and passion for saving the planet, The Peninsula All-Suite Hotel is dedicated to improving the health conditions and quality of life of families less privileged throughout South Africa by providing them with a simple cooking device – The Wonderbag. Header image credit: Climate Neutral Group.

The Wonderbag is a revolutionary non-electric heat-retention slow cooker that continues to cook food that has been brought to the boil for up to 12 hours without the use of additional fuel or electricity.  It provides communities with greener, safer and more reliable energy to cook their everyday meals.

As a solution to offset the carbon emissions generated through the Peninsula’s meeting rooms and conference facilities, caused by the need for lighting, cleaning, catering, heating, cooling and travelling, for every conference booked the Peninsula will donate Wonderbags to families in need through the Climate Neutral Groups Green Dreams project.

In doing so they are not only neutralising and reducing their carbon footprint but significantly contributing towards the life conditions of vulnerable communities across Africa, empowering them to progress by creating a safer and healthier environment.

Carbon Credits

The Wonderbag project is registered under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), thereby allowing companies to credibly offset their carbon emissions whilst making a sustainable social impact in South Africa. The Wonderbag’s environmental impact is measured and monitored by internal and external researchers and audited by independent auditors as required by the VCS guidelines.

The Peninsula All-suite Hotel is managed as a professional and environmentally conscious business and will continue to identify areas of opportunity to decrease their carbon footprint and bring forward change. They will stock the Wonderbag at the hotel to guests or conferencing delegates who wish to make a difference.

Would you also like to offer climate neutral conference facilities at your hotel? Click here for more information or contact Nishanthi Lambrichs at nishanthi.lambrichs@climateneutralgroup.com