One of the many dimensions of this project is concern about climate change. And since it involves the creation of energy-intensive large bronze castings it is entirely appropriate to think about how to mitigate the impact of that process.
The principle of carbon offsetting is that of investing in a project that will, by one means or another, reduce the amount of CO2
in the atmosphere, to offset emissions linked to whatever one is doing. In recent years forestry has become the most popular, with (in 2018) twice the volume of emissions saved than the second most popular, renewable energy, and over four times the financial investment globally.
This trend is continuing. For a variety of reasons, not least its common-sense appeal, it also seems the best fit to the Time and Tide Bells. And although tree-planting in the tropics can offer significantly greater carbon sequestration rates than in the UK, there is common-sense appeal of something reasonably close at hand, a location that could even be visited.
It is worth bearing in mind the fundamental point about tree-based carbon offsets: they are all about changing land use into permanent woodland.
Since the practicalities of offsetting are opaque – the project may be geographically remote, and its claimed benefits in CO2
capture terms unclear at first or even second glance – a significant industry has grown up around certification and standards. It is apocryphal, ever since George Monbiot memorably likened offsetting to the purchases of Medieval indulgences, that there is a great deal of misinformation and indeed dishonesty in this world.
The challenges to legitimate offsetting are these:
1. Permanence: trees must live long enough to deliver the promised carbon capture.
2. Additionality: the trees were not going to be planted anyway for some other reason.
3. Leakage: they are not permitting other emissions somewhere else.
Several international bodies exist claiming to vet projects in accordance with them. For tree planting in the UK there is just one, the Woodland Carbon Code
, developed by the Forestry Commission.
A number of practical schemes operate under this umbrella – i.e. are Woodland Carbon Code accredited. We have selected the Carbon Club
scheme, administered by Forest Carbon
, a Durham-based business itself involved in the development of the code. Forest Carbon is linked to the United Bank of Carbon
, a non-profit partnership between environmental scientists and businesses, linked to Leeds University’s Priestley Centre
We are paying the Carbon Club £17 per month, aiming to mitigate 20 tonnes of emissions per annum – roughly equivalent to the installation of two bells. See our calculation
on the emissions linked to a bell for an analysis of this.
We also recognise that this approach won’t satisfy all, due to residual concerns about the whole business of offsetting, and the opacity of the calculations involved.
We are therefore keeping it under review. Two projects that have interesting links to our coastal orientation are research into and action on the restoration of Seagrass
, and also into Kelp. These are exciting in many ways, though not yet at a stage where they can act as any sort of equivalent to woodland planting.