Fairtrade Climate Standard Approved

A small but important announcement was made late last year as world leaders debated the way forward on climate legislation at COP 21 – the Fairtrade Climate Standard was released.  This new venture – in partnership with the Gold Standard Foundation – aims to further utilise carbon offset projects to increase skills, knowledge and financial flows to producer communities in countries in the Global South.  As one of the most trusted brands in Britain, Fairtrade have not taken their decision to enter a new market lightly and the key driver behind their involvement is the inherently unfair nature of climate change.

Hand on heart, most of us recognise that climate change is largely a problem caused by the developed world, however it is not common knowledge that a cruel climatic irony is at play.  The majority of people in developing countries are small scale producers or smallholders dependent on crops and livestock as both a means of subsistence and income.  These people are therefore the most vulnerable to weather extremes in a changing climate, but are also the people that have made little – if any – contribution to the cause of it.   A staggering 80% of the world’s food is produced on land less than 2 hectares in size – when you consider that most of this is vulnerable to a changing climate, the scale of the challenge makes Fairtrade’s intervention understandable and very welcome.

I have just returned from Bonn where I attended a workshop at Fairtrade’s HQ on the key operating procedures defined in the newly published standard.  Just like Fairtrade bananas and coffee, I learned that a key feature of a Fairtrade offset is that a so-called Fairtrade premium must be paid to the producers (not developers) of the carbon credit.  (In a cookstove project, this is the people who have swapped their 3 stone fire for an improved cookstove.)   This premium must then put to use for the collective good of the producers in the way that has been democratically decided by that group to be most appropriate for their needs.  In a traditional Fairtrade supply chain, this premium is typically used to invest in improved processing techniques, organic fertilisers or similar things that will add value or improve working practices.  A Fairtrade carbon offset is different; the premium must be invested in climate adaptation activities – thus enabling and empowering producers to prepare for a changing climate.  Project Facilitators, like co2balance, will assist producer groups by transferring knowledge about climate adaptation practices (such as improved irrigation practices or water storage) to deliver extra impact within the offset project.  Now that the Fairtrade standard has been approved after exhaustive revisions, the rest of 2016 will see it being trialled by around 20 projects, including one of our own.   We are very excited about what it can bring to the carbon market and shall continue to keep helping shape its development.



Environment Agency reviews ESOS Compliance Deadline

Its been a busy few months for co2balance as we close off our ESOS Energy Audit reports in time for the 5th December ESOS compliance deadline.  This date marks the cut off for when participating organisations must declare that a Lead Assessor has calculated their total energy consumption and overseen an audit  identifying cost effective energy savings for their operations.

Organisations that havent done this by the 5th December risk a maximum penalty for non- compliance of £50,000.

However the good news is its not too late to avoid this penalty; in a recent update, the Environment Agency have agreed to not enforce penalties on those organisations who notify them before the 5th of December that they have appointed a Lead Assessor and intend to register their compliance by the 29th January 2016.

We expect to have a number of enquiries during this period and have set aside resources to help meet demand.  So if you are an organisation with more than 250 employees – or have a turnover of at least €47 million and a balance sheet of €50 million, dont delay – appoint your Lead Assessor before the 5th December to avoid a penalty notice.

Stove Maintenance in Kenya

I have recently returned from a visit to Kenya, where I spent some time with our team visiting some freshly repaired cookstoves in our project close to the Aberdares National Park.  Our CZK stoves are renowned for being robust, however, if stove owners come across issues, they can communicate with our project officers who will arrange a repair if required.  As all of our improved cookstoves are built locally, we are able to ensure availability of parts and also the skills required to fit them throughout the lifetime of the project.

I spoke to a number of owners after they had their stoves repaired, and it was great to hear first- hand about how the CZK stove has been of benefit to them.  Of course, it is important that an improved stove saves wood and reduces indoor air pollution, but an oft-mentioned additional benefit was that because our stove retains heat, it needs less tending.  This means that the cook (usually the wife or mother) can multi-task – which is an important advantage when looking after your smallholder farm, collecting water and raising a family all need to be squeezed into your day.  Rachel Njeri told me how she puts the CZK stove on a low heat and heads off to tend to her cows on her small dairy farm and returns to a ready meal.  With the traditional stove, she had to come back to it a couple of times to check to the fire, so she says that using the CZK has freed up some much needed time for her.

Rachel Njeri

Rachel Njeri

After visiting stove owners, we stopped off to visit a primary school to chat to the headmaster Joseph Njuna about the challenges his school faces.  The school was eerily quiet, as teachers across the country are on strike following the Government’s refusal to honour a Supreme Court ruling granting them a negotiated 50-60% pay rise.  The pay of Kenyan teachers – as in many other countries – is inversely proportion to the importance of their contribution to society, so lets hope the matter is resolved with the right result and pupils can resume their education soon.

Despite the strike, Joseph came in especially to meet us and we learned that public (non fee paying) schools like his have limited and erratic government funding and often rely on parents chipping in if the budget runs too tight.  Technology such as improved institutional cookstoves and solar panels will help schools like Joseph’s manage their finances better by reducing their major outgoings.  We are very hopeful to start attracting support for this kind of added impact within our projects over the coming months.

Overall – and as usual – it was an excellent visit and I would like to thank Moses, Charles, Virginia, Lilian and Martin (pictured) for their tireless hard work on our projects and for making me feel very welcome.

Moses, Charles, Lilian, Martin and Virginia

Moses, Charles, Lilian, Martin and Virginia

Countdown to ESOS compliance

With a deadline set at 5th December 2015, we are due to enter the final 6 month countdown until compliance with the 1st phase for ESOS (Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme) must be demonstrated by qualifying organisations.  ESOS is the UK Government’s response to an EU Directive that requires so-called Large Undertakings to undergo energy audits and identify energy savings opportunities within their operations.  In case you were wondering what exactly a Large Undertaking is, it is defined as an organisation of more than 250 employees or an organisation with a turnover of €50 million and a balance sheet of more than €47 million.  In contrast to prevailing thought, this criteria means that you don’t always have to be a for-profit business to fall within scope – trust funds, major charities and universities receiving over 50% of their funding from private sources are examples of Large Undertakings that will have to comply with the scheme.

Typically, an organisation has to demonstrate their compliance with ESOS by contracting a qualified Lead Assessor to oversee their energy audits and identify energy savings opportunities.  At last count, there were only 300 registered Lead Assessors and an estimated 7,500 Undertakings falling within scope of ESOS.  This is very likely an underestimate of the actual number of Undertakings that will have to comply – owing to the fact that all organisations under the umbrella of a UK parent group will fall under ESOS if only one of its fellow organisations met the ESOS qualifying criteria.

As a registered Lead Assessor, CO2balance are expecting busy times in the coming 6 months and are fully prepared for the last mad dash to meet the deadline  – if you unsure whether your organisation is within scope of ESOS, feel free to drop us a line and we will be happy to provide you with some advice.

The Carbon In Infrastructure

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending a business breakfast organised by Low Carbon South West to discuss the importance of carbon in infrastructure projects.  It was held in a location befitting a discussion on infrastructure, that being the Engine Shed of Brunel’s masterpiece Bristol Temple Meads Railway Station – standing as it does as a proud monument to the phenomenal achievements of our forebears.  Will the generations to come think the same of us?

The UK Government is trying to make some positive changes it seems, as the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Government’s most recent reviews on our infrastructure.  The National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) and Infrastructure Carbon Review, both released in 2013, highlighted how the Government is keen to consider the impact of carbon in large infrastructure projects and move towards a lower carbon approach.  Over the next 30 years, around 70% of our large infrastructure projects will be low carbon (these were mostly wind turbines), but we will still have to keep building bridges, water pipes and roads.  We discussed some of the ways organisations are trying to include carbon accounting in their procurement strategies for such works (which some enlightened organisations already do e.g. Anglian Water) and how they are reaping the benefits in their bottom line.  Reducing carbon can reduce your costs, thats for sure, but it requires careful thought and an assessment of the risks of trying new processes and technology – which tends to make business nervous, which is perhaps why many are reluctant to make the switch.

In reality the risk of trying new things now is certain to be less risky than operating in an unpredictable climate, so we applaud the forward thinking organisations who have already made this link and hope many more will follow.

co2balance microprogrammes

The costs of developing a standard 60,000 tonne small scale project are considerable.   Auditor fees, plus the time project developers need to understand and negotiate the complex rules set by the Gold Standard used to mean that only projects promising to deliver close to 60,000 tonnes throughout their lifetime were economically viable.  Any low volume project simply was too expensive to develop and because these projects tended to be located in Least Developed Countries, this meant that overall these countries were unrepresented in the carbon market as a whole.  This was despite there being many opportunities to deliver emission reductions with significant positive social and economic impacts – something that project investors are increasingly keen to see.

The microprogramme of activity concept was established by the Gold Standard to help catalyse investment in underrepresented regions and especially in smaller projects that previously were commercially non-viable.  A microprogramme sets rules for the inclusion of any number of individual projects that each are limited to an offset of 10,000 tonnes – the initial time consuming project audit (known as validation) is focussed only on the microprogramme.  This audit confirms the rules by which the inclusion of individual projects are governed and, once agreed, allows new projects to be included with a streamlined, simplified check.  Overall, this means that an unlimited number of small projects up to 10,000 tonnes can be developed more quickly, more cheaply and with less risk than compared to the standard small scale process.

This is something that co2balance has long recognised the importance of and we championed it from the start and indeed were the first organisation to register a multi-country microprogramme of activities.  Collectively, our microprogrammes have this month reached a landmark 40 mini projects across 9 countries, totalling 400,000 tonnes of emission reductions annually.  This goes to show the collective impact that many small projects can have and we are confident that the success of the concept will continue to grow.

Earth Overshoot Day

August 19 was Earth Overshoot Day 2014, marking the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s ‘budget’ for the year.

Starting from today and for the rest of this year, we will be drawing down on ecological resources that the Earth cannot replenish – in essence we will be operating in the ecological red.  Current estimates suggest that we need approximately 1.5 Earths to sustain our current requirement for ecological resources and this is well on track to be 3 Earths by 2050.  

As each country on Earth has different ecological resources, different populations and different consumption patterns you can also consider the ecological resource balance at a country level. Capture The graphic to the left illustrates some select countries with a negative balance, and as you can see the UK in particular has some work to do to start living within its ecological means.  

Its not all bad news, 14% of the world still operates in the black and Canada, Australia, Brazil and Finland are all notable high income countries with an ecological capacity that is able to support their populations. However, it is immediately clear that these counties all have something in common, they have vast tracts of wilderness relative to their population sizes. In essence, this means that the success of these countries is more by accident rather than by them adopting some kind of ecologically sensitive approach to their own resource consumption.  Bearing in mind that 86% of the world operates in the red and the 14% that do not are perhaps an ecological accident, does this mean that comparing countries in this way is even relevant?  

As a planet, we all need to take action and the danger of comparing countries with one another is that it will create disagreements between what is the most appropriate course of action to take.  As we have seen with the last two UN Climate Negotiations, we risk taking no action at all because our leaders cannot agree on what action is fair – this is a rather absurd situation when the one thing our leaders are all in agreement about is that they need to take action!  The message here then, is dont wait for someone to tell you what to – as we pass into the Overshoot this year think about what small steps you can take to reduce our own personal consumption, wherever and whoever you are.





co2balance in Eritrea

As a result of its pioneering global micro Programme of Activities (mPoA), co2balance are assisting partners develop projects in countries that have yet to see much benefit from carbon finance initiatives.  This brings us neatly around to the latest project addition to our mPOA Improved Kitchen Regimes – Dissemination of Improved Stoves in Zoba Anseba, Eritrea alongside our partner Vita.   Our work will help bring 8,000 improved cookstoves to households in this project and it will also support the ‘training of trainers’ in which every 1 person trained in stove building and maintenance will then pass on their skills to 10 more.  This project will start construction towards the later end of this year thanks to the funding we will unlock by demonstrating the offset potential of this project.

Eritrea is, I think its fair to say, not a well-known country outside of Africa – perhaps not even in it?  Despite it occupying a strategic location near the entrance to the Red Sea, it is somewhat overshadowed by its two better-known neighbours, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Here are some interesting facts that you may not know about Eritrea:

  • In 2006, it became the world’s first country to allocate an entire coastline as a reserve (and not a small one at over 1000 kilometres!)
  • It has no official national language, as the Constitution establishes the equality of all Eritrean languages
  • One of the world’s oldest human fossils was excavated here and many experts believe Eritrea to be the place early hominids started their journey out from Africa
  • Just like France, Spain and Italy, Eritrea holds a multi-stage international cycling event – the Giro de Eritrea is held annually.





Progress in our Kenyan CDM Programme of Activities (PoA)

The last meeting of the CDM Executive Board was an important one for co2balance; despite monitoring our PoA within the strict requirements of the methodology, we found we would be unable to claim carbon credits because we had followed updated (and improved) guidance related to choosing sample sizes.  Nearly 1 year ago, we began challenging this technical obscurity in which best practice in project development was effectively outlawed and, as a result, the CDM Secretariat eventually raised this issue to the Executive Board (EB) for consideration at this, their 80th meeting.

The EB meet around 10 times per year to discuss issues relating to the governance of the world’s only legally binding market-based mechanism to mitigate climate change.  Owing to its basis in international law, the CDM is famed for its bureaucracy, pedantry and resistance to change and as I recently found out, you can actually watch the deliberation of the EB live via a webcast – would this be wise, these things considered?

I have 2 confessions 1) I did indeed watch the meeting and 2) I kind of enjoyed it.  This was almost entirely due to the  meeting being  chaired in admirable fashion by Hugh Sealy of Barbados/Canada, whose mellifluous accent and jargon-busting, no-nonsense approach kept me glued to my headset.  Im happy to say that common sense prevailed, our challenge was noted and accepted by the EB and we, in some small way, have changed a global framework for the better.



Successful CDM Site Visit


I had the pleasure of joining Moses, Virginia and our team of Community Project Officers to lead the 2nd monitoring period site visit for our CDM Programme of Activities (PoA) in Kenya.  We have two Component Project Activities (CPAs) under our PoA, one in Eldoret East and one in Mathira District; we had to show our Project Auditor around both CPAs to verify the emissions reductions from the 2 sites.  In all, we visited 40 households, all of whom were very happy with our stove and the Auditor confirmed that he was satisfied that the project was achieving the emissions reductions that we reported.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the smooth running of these site visits some 650 km apart and for making my stay in Kenya a pleasurable one as always.  Big shout out to Francis for his smooth driving and ingenious method of keeping up with the news on a windy day when you feel like standing up.