Carbon credits

A time of crisis

We are facing a climate and nature crisis and need to act. The two crises are interlinked – climate change is the biggest driver of biodiversity loss – and there are solutions out there which can tackle both. At the RSPB, we know that rapid decarbonisation of our economy is critical to lessening the impacts of the climate crisis. We also believe that carbon credits can be part of the action needed.

Carbon credits can be bought by organisations or individuals to offset emissions that can’t currently be avoided. Each carbon credit leads to the permanent removal (or avoidance) of one tonne of greenhouse gas emissions – for example through land use change or renewable energy generation.

Alongside advocating for the rapid decarbonisation of our economy, we support the development of high-standard carbon offsetting projects to help us tackle the crises we are facing. Through carbon credits, these projects provide one way for individuals or businesses to pay to address their carbon footprint, while allowing other organisations to fund work that helps prevent climate change.

Using carbon credits to make a difference

Used correctly, carbon credits can be one tool to drive the change the world needs to see – by giving organisations the funding they need to carry out conservation work that will also help address the nature and climate emergency.

With the money raised by carbon credits, organisations can create and restore land that helps nature and people and stores carbon. The RSPB is already doing this in Sierra Leone, where we support the Gola Rainforest Project partners to protect the 70,000-hectare national park and support the livelihoods of over 120 communities in and around the area. Much of the income for this project comes from carbon credit sales, through the Gola Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) project that has been in operation since 2012. Sierra Leone does not have the revenue to protect its forest estate and without the project and RSPB support, the forest would be lost to agriculture and mining.

A man using a measuring tape to measure a tree in Gola Rainforest

Let's talk about greenwashing

We know that greenwashing exists. This happens when businesses or organisations buy carbon credits to meet targets or give the impression of being a ‘green’ company, but without doing anything to reduce their overall carbon emissions. In this situation, there is no net carbon benefit.

At the RSPB, we’re not in the business of enabling greenwashing, we’re here to drive real change. In short, businesses can’t come to us, buy carbon credits and then carry on as usual. RSPB projects/supported carbon projects will follow the highest standards for climate, nature and people, ensuring that local communities benefit. We’re only going to work with organisations and businesses who are transparent about their decarbonisation and are actively reviewing the way they work to reduce their carbon emissions.

Peat dams in Northern Ireland