Frequently Asked Questions
Apart from the most important question of them all: Why would we only reduce and compensate CO₂ if we can safely store carbon for centuries, unlocking its positive impact?
What is a Carbon Sink?
In the natural carbon cycle, carbon is exchanged between the atmosphere, biosphere, the ocean and land mass. Carbon (in form of CO₂ or methane) in the atmosphere heats the planet, sequestered carbon in the soil or in the sea doesn't.
Creating a carbon sink
- Extracting CO₂ from the atmosphere
- Storing the extracted carbon safely over a specified period of time
- Verifying and documenting this service in a trustworthy and auditable way
Saving existing forests, using efficient stoves or switching to renewable energy are key to reducing emissions. But just reducing emissions does not create carbon sinks.
No sink is forever
- Fossile carbon deposits are mined and exploited
- Afforestation projects may be cleared due to changing social, economic or political circumstances
- Carbon rich humus degrades due to intensive conventional agriculture based on chemical fertilisers
Nature-based Carbon Sinks?
Currently, there are three types of nature-based mature, scalable, scientifically backed-up carbon sink technologies: Afforestation, Soil Organic Carbon and Biochar.
These sinks have a primary use in agriculture and, if handled appropriately, foster bio-diversity and soil quality, which are next to climate change (and nuclear war) the two biggest threats to life on earth. Biochar has a great potential in other applications like construction materials, decontamination or technical textile.
Biochar-based sinks are the perfect start for Carbonfuture for the following reasons:
- Biochar brought into soil is stable over time (with a decay rate below 0.3% per annum) and cannot be extracted
- The biochar production processes in (EBC) certified pyrolysis plants is standardized and production emissions can be quantified
- The biochar supply chain can be tracked
What is a Carbonfuture Carbon Sink Credit?
Carbonfuture Carbon Sink Credits finance portfolios of sinks. Each physical sink (e.g. a big bag of biochar applied to the soil on a specific farm) is documented and securitised in an individual "cf-certificate”.
What does the certificate contain?
- An independent EBC-certificate quantifiying the climate positivity of the biochar (at production site) net of production emissions
- Evidence of the effective sink creation by applying the biochar in a way that ensures stable sequestration (e.g. in direct soil applications)
- Immutable documentation of these evidences on the carbonfuture Hyperledger blockchain (which is not an energy intensive technology)
One Carbonfuture Carbon Sink Credit finances the stable removal of 1 t CO₂ equivalent over 100 years. Although the decay rate of the biochar-sinks is much lower than the natural decay rate of CO₂ in the atmosphere, we initially store 1.16 t CO₂ equivalent to guarantee an average of 1 ton over 100 years. This standard ensures climate positivity.
Why should I buy C-sink credits although they are more expensive than many existing reputable compensation offerings?
Mitigation of global warming requires the rigorous reduction of GHG emissions, and the large scale establishment of safe C-sinks. As of today, relatively cheap emission reductions are available, there are still a lot of low hanging fruits. Not to speak of a huge part of emissions which is not even reported yet.
The need for C-sinks, however, doesn't allow any delay in developing and scaling the technologies. Nowadays, non-harmful, stable and fully auditable C-sinks are still significantly more expensive than emission reductions. Compare it to waste avoidance as opposed to cleaning-up and recycling, which are different types of services that come with different prices, but both are needed. If you want to become climate neutral, C-sinks must be part of your strategy.
Based on the IPCC 1.5°C scenarios (see, e.g., page 14 of this Summary for Policy Makers), which foresee net zero emissions around 2050, we expect a convergence of prices over the coming decades. As we must reach a significant net negative balance after 2050, in the long term, emission reductions / emission allowances may very well become way more expensive than C-sink financing.
How much energy is consumed by the Carbonfuture blockchain?
There are many different blockchain technologies. Public blockchains that use the "proof of work" consensus methodology are very energy intensive as every transaction needs to be confirmed by many peers solving difficult computations. So high energy consumption and the cost of energy is the key feature of such technologies making them trustworthy (it is expensive to attack them).
The IBM Hyperledger in contrast is a permissioned blockchain. All participants are identified and the trust must come from the accredited peers. The energy need is comparable to classical database frameworks (and by a factor of millions lower as compared to, e.g., a public blockchain-based framework like Ethereum). Of course carbonfuture retires own C-sink credits to ensure a climate positive balance.
Do Carbonfuture C-Sink Credits comply with the International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance’s (ICROA) Code of Best Practice?
The Carbonfuture C-Sink credits are issued under the EBC-Sink standard. This standard is currently not part of any of the officially accredited offset standards (Gold Standard, VCS, CAR, Joint Implementation, American Carbon Registry, ERF of the Australian Government). However, the EBC-Sink standard is currently the most rigorous standard available vor C-sinks based on carbon preserving applications of biochar. This standard ensures that the C-sink credits are
- Real, as all sinks have effectively been established before the respective credits are sold
- Measurable according to the scientific standards set by EBC-sink
- Permanent by at least 100 years, any potential leakage or shorter duration is being compensated by binding more carbon at inception, such that 100 ton years per credit is guaranteed
- Additional, as the alternative scenario for the use of the biomass is usually the full thermic use as renewable energy, i.e., the assumed baseline is zero; financial additionality is given as scaling of the biochar industry is heavily dependent on price reductions, for which financing through C-sink credits are key
- Independently verified according to the EBC-sink standard
- Unique, as both producer and user of the biochar must commit to not claiming the climate benefit elsewhere
Would Carbonfuture replace any tons that fail to be removed from the atmosphere?
Carbonfuture currently only issues certificates based on biochar that is irreversibly bound over at least 100 years. Thus, only effectively removed and irreversibly stored tons are considered, the credits are issued "ex-post". Any loss is accounted for by applying a decay factor to biochar applied in soils, which is even more conservative as suggested by the IPCC publications. Each ton sold as a credit represents the sequestration of one ton of CO2 equivalent on average over 100 years (i.e., 100 "ton years"). There is no ex-post measurement over the lifetime of the sink. It is virtually impossible to extract biochar from soil.
In future, Carbonfuture will also include biochar applications in materials. This requires to differentiate between irreversible applications (e.g., in concrete) and other applications, e.g., in recyclable building materials, plastic or asphalt. As required by the EBC-sink standard, we will In the latter case either rely on technology supported monitoring processes, or statistical models including buffers.
Which co-benefits, e.g., on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), come with the biochar-based C-sinks financed through Carbonfuture?
There is a wide range of co-benefits that come with the proper application of biochar which are mainly based on the material properties, in particular the surface area, pore size and chemo-electric properties. Biochar in soils increases water retention capacity, reduces nutrient leakage and therefore protects marine resources and reduces the need for fertilizers, it can increase yield, it can filter toxics - just to name a few. Biochar applications have a huge potential in particular in the tropics including benefits for smallholder farmers. Biochar has a huge potential in material applications, e.g., as sand replacement in concrete or as additive in asphalt. Accordingly, the following SDGs are particularly supported:
- Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation
- Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy
- Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
- Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
- Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production
- Goal 13: Climate action
- Goal 14: Life below water
- Goal 15: Life on land
What is the relationship of the C-sinks financed through Carbonfuture with the host country's Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)?
If states use C sinks to make it easier to achieve emission reduction targets (NDCs), this should be viewed critically. This alleviation occurs, for example, in the case of the increase of carbon bound in forests in Germany and Switzerland. Carbonfuture GmbH will not sell credits for C-sinks recognised under NDCs and will require all participants in the value chain of credit creation (in particular the biochar producer and the user) to comply with this requirement. Carbonfuture is aware that in general, states might include any C-sinks in their NDC reporting. Currently, we are not aware of any country in which we finance C-sinks that would include C-sinks based on biochar applications in their NDCs. We think that anyone who wants to credit additional C-sink services must also pay for them. In this respect, the acquisition of C-sink credits by those states that wish to include them in their NDCs would be a sensible approach that would avoid double counting.
What measures does carbonfuture take to prevent double counting of C-sinks?
Every person involved in the process of sink creation must explicitly agree not to claim any climate benefit from the respective sink elsewhere. This encompasses in particular all voluntary markets, state regulated frameworks, and the own carbon balance. All sinks are end-to-end documented in the blockchain-based registry which effectively enables auditing. One of the reasons why we decided to bootstrap the framework beginning in developed countries is that monitoring and control is simpler for us there. In parallel to growing volumes, we are also expanding and digitalising the respective monitoring and control processes.