Our carbon manifesto

Understanding carbon jargon and being ethical

Pont-de-Buis Forest, France

Carbon is a complex topic, particularly due to its integration into an unregulated market. Its exploitation through carbon credits can be both virtuous and vicious, depending on how it is used. It is, therefore, essential to understand the main aspects of carbon, its ins and outs, and determine its legal and ethical framework.

Forests play a major ecological role in maintaining the planet’s balance as they recycle carbon. Throughout their lives, trees draw carbon from the atmosphere during photosynthesis and store it in their trunks, branches, roots, leaves and biomass (in the litter and the soil). Once the trees are harvested, the duration of carbon storage in the resulting products varies significantly, depending on wood quality and intended use. For example, using wood for energy or paper production results in the rapid release of stored carbon. Whereas using it as timber maintains carbon storage for several decades or even centuries, and helps avoid using polluting materials such as plastic, concrete or metal.

In recent years, carbon credits have been promoted as a miracle solution to the climate crisis. This includes emissions quotas, voluntary carbon offsetting, and achieving carbon neutrality. The commendable idea behind this approach is to leverage carbon, and therefore carbon credits, as a powerful financing tool for ecosystems. Unfortunately, in the meantime, a less virtuous market has emerged, characterised by dishonest practices with its share of scams, greenwashing, and even "treewashing".

At EcoTree, we firmly advocate that carbon credits should serve as an ethical instrument for preserving fragile ecosystems, particularly forests and their biodiversity. For this reason, we do not support carbon offsetting unless it is accompanied by an honest and consistent effort to reduce and avoid carbon emissions. We also urge people to be careful when choosing carbon credits, as their quality and efficacy vary significantly.

In this spirit, we have sought to issue credits with unquestionable tangibility that are not solely focused on carbon compensation. We want to provide legitimate carbon credits from our forestry projects that ban clear-cutting, prioritise biodiversity, local action, inclusion and the development of the solidarity economy.

To do so, our scientific team has developed a carbon quantification methodology, approved by Bureau Veritas, a global leader in certification. This enables us to generate our own carbon credits on the voluntary market so that everyone can contribute towards global carbon neutrality by supporting the creation of carbon sinks through the maintenance and renewal of forests and their ecosystems. In the absence of official regulation, we adhere to strict legal protocols to ensure compliance with best practices and ethical standards.

Customers who work with EcoTree share our commitment to protecting forests from the many unnecessary and damaging commercial speculations arising from the carbon race.

Here are six key points that we would like to bring to your attention:

Avoid and reduce first and foremost, then contribute to global carbon neutrality

At EcoTree, we prioritise reducing carbon emissions rather than relying solely on carbon offsetting. Therefore, we believe any environmental action we take should be accompanied by an avoidance and reduction approach.

We cannot stress enough that the best CO2 is the one that is not emitted rather than the one that is offset. The reduction of carbon footprint should be the primary focus of any environmental initiative. Any contributions made, including to EcoTree, are only meaningful if they are part of that wider effort. In no way does EcoTree intend to use ecosystems as a greenwash for businesses or individuals who are not committed to taking meaningful action to reduce their carbon emissions and address the urgent climate crisis.

Claiming to have no negative impact in an ever-deteriorating world makes no sense, which is why we do not subscribe to the idea of individual carbon neutrality. Carbon neutrality can only be achieved at a global scale by balancing residual anthropogenic CO2 emissions with anthropogenic CO2 absorption. The only way to stop the accumulation of CO2 and ultimately stabilise temperatures is by avoiding, reducing, and removing as much CO2 as we continue to emit each year. To achieve this global carbon neutrality, human societies must act on two major fronts: avoiding and reducing emissions, on the one hand, and increasing carbon sinks, particularly forests, on the other hand.

Not all carbon credits are equal

Carbon offsetting relies on the impacts of one tonne of CO2 emitted somewhere being neutralised by the avoidance or capture of one tonne of CO2 elsewhere. This implies that companies can offset some or all of the emissions they were unable to reduce by buying carbon credits. However, it is not as simple as that.

Buying a carbon credit, which means co-financing someone else’s carbon reduction or carbon sink project, shifts the obligation to a third party.

Carbon credits sold on the voluntary market at a ridiculously low price can in no way be a relevant lever to truly commit companies to avoidance and reduction efforts. They have become just another commodity, often leaving biodiversity and social engagement out of the equation.

Traceability and transparency of carbon credits must therefore be at the heart of the contractual relationship. Too often, projects, even if certified by reputable entities, do not meet commonly accepted eligibility criteria or simply do not exist. The recent scandals that have affected a number of companies, particularly large international groups, are unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg of common hidden practices.

Worse yet, the race for carbon and its sequestration sometimes leads to absurdities. A monoculture forest of coniferous trees has a high potential for carbon sequestration, sometimes greater than that of a mixed-species forest, and which nevertheless prioritises natural regeneration and biodiversity. At EcoTree, we do not want a forest solely dedicated to carbon performance at the expense of flora, fauna, and ecosystems. Since climate change and the erosion of biodiversity are intrinsically linked, we strive for a mixed forest that may sequester slightly less carbon in the short term but will be more favorable to biodiversity development.

Finally, we must bear in mind the aspect of temporality: reducing emissions elsewhere rather than at home may be equivalent if the financed project results in an immediate emission reduction. However, this is not the case, for example, with forest-based carbon credits where carbon sequestration takes place over decades, not at the time of credit purchase.
This is the reason for the distinction between ex-ante and ex-post credits. ex-ante carbon units are issued before the carbon capture activity is completed. In the case of a forestry project, these credits are issued prior to tree planting and anticipate the estimated future carbon capture of the forest in question. These ex-ante credits are then gradually converted into ex-post carbon credits, when the actual amount of carbon sequestered is measured on the field, usually every five years.

EcoTree’s carbon credits follow an ethical and holistic approach

In recent years, many companies have positioned themselves as providers of solutions to avoid Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) or to sequester carbon, promising a significant environmental impact. However, often these claims are not transparently verifiable, with projects not adequately being tracked or evaluated. This lack of transparency and tangibility has raised strong criticisms and scepticism towards solutions that, when properly implemented, can benefit the planet.

EcoTree's core mission is to sustainably manage mixed forests and canopy forests, where ecosystems are preserved and nurtured, biodiversity flourishes, and trees sequester carbon over the long term, growing at their own pace, and are eventually harvested for timber, that continues to store carbon durably.

To achieve this, carbon capture is naturally enhanced in our forests through soil preservation, which captures about 50% of the forest’s carbon stock, and by developing diverse tree species on the same plot (of land) that mutually enrich each other. And in addition, we take care of biodiversity in forests by restoring ecosystems, encouraging the flourishing of wild fauna and flora, and implementing forest management that does not disrupt the natural rhythm and cycles of the forest.

To provide the companies financing our forestry projects with guarantees on the calculation and the actual implementation of these projects, EcoTree has developed its own method for calculating carbon sequestration and storage in forests on its stands. This method, developed by our scientific team, and in collaboration with a dozen forest experts and managers, has been reviewed by Bureau Veritas, a global leader in certification. Its purpose is to offer certified information, and thus guarantee the sequestration service provided by forests, while respecting the criteria of measurability, traceability, permanence, uniqueness and additionality. Bureau Veritas certifies the proper application of this method in each of the forestry projects undertaken by EcoTree.

Carbon credits are legally regulated

Carbon credits were created by the Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the Kyoto Protocol), on December 11th, 1997. It has been signed and ratified by over 191 States. As part of the "European Green Deal", the European Commission has adopted an initial voluntary framework at the European Union level to certify high-quality carbon removals or emissions reductions.

Legally, a voluntary carbon credit is defined as a tradable instrument that corresponds to an emissions reduction or removal of a quantity of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from the atmosphere equivalent to 1 tonne of CO2. The substance of carbon credits from carbon capture is defined as the quantity (or corresponding unit of measurement) of CO2 equivalent that must be captured (ex-ante credit) or that has been, after verification, effectively captured (ex-post credit) though the implementation of the capture project. As carbon credits (ex-ante or ex-post) are tradable instruments, they can be bought and sold, implying that carbon credits are a tradable property.

Carbon credits are created and issued by private entities and organisations that have developed methodologies to determine the volumes and quantities of carbon credits created, as well as detailed procedures for the allocation of these credits. The procedure for allocating voluntary carbon credits is therefore derived from common practices and rules developed by various stakeholders involved in the allocation process.

For "carbon credits" to be allocated to a project leader, the avoidance or capture project must be certified to verify compliance with objective criteria that ensure the likelihood or reality of emissions avoidance or capture of a certain quantity of GHGs. To date, there are five criteria for certifying an avoidance or capture project: additionality, measurability, traceability, permanence and uniqueness.

This is how EcoTree can sell the carbon credits it owns, which represent specified quantities of CO2 equivalent that must be or have been effectively captured. These quantities are determined based on verification certificates issued by a third-party certifier, and they are recorded in a unique registry specifically designed for this purpose. The registry accounts for both ex-ante and ex-post credits, and credits are attributed to specific owners by recording them in accounts opened in their names.

The carbon credit (whether ex-ante or post-ante) is considered consumed and has produced its compensatory effect when the credit’s owner expressly and publicly declares that they have offset a corresponding amount of GHG emissions resulting from their activities, whether professional or non-professional, with that carbon credit. The compensatory effect of the carbon credit therefore occurs when its owner publicly declares having offset the amount of CO2 equivalent that must be or has been effectively captured with a corresponding amount of GHG emissions, fully or partially attributable to the owner's activity. Thus, as soon as a carbon credit is used, its owner must request the withdrawal from EcoTree. They also commit to not transferring a carbon credit that has been used and that has already produced its compensatory effect.

Regardless of the methodology developed, it is by nature empirical and based on a certain number of scientific assumptions that are inevitably bound to evolve. Our carbon methodology is a theoretical and predictive analysis that allows us to model the carbon stored in forests as well as in downstream wood products, and even estimates substitution effects. Carbon sequestration projects are progressive, spread over time, and inherently subject to various risks such as storms, fires, natural disasters, as well as legal and regulatory changes.

Our compliance meets the highest expectations

To ensure the highest level of compliance, EcoTee has set up an Ethics Committee, composed of reputable individuals known for their expertise and integrity, as well as numerous independent experts.

EcoTree’s offers, especially those related to carbon credits, are made public and accessible only after a long period of legal review - where the regulatory, accounting and tax implications are also studied with the help of renowned academics.

For each of its forests, EcoTree obtains PEFC or FSC certification and goes even further by ensuring sustainable management based on nature-friendly forestry principles (ProSilva) and strict specifications.

Every year, the work of our forest managers is audited by an independent accredited forestry expert appointed by the local Court of Appeals. EcoTree also publishes a comprehensive report on its initiatives in support of ecosystems.

Your communication should reflect your commitment

It is highly likely that you will want to communicate about your commendable initiative and/or our partnership in the near future, and rightfully so! However, communicating environmental actions can be complex. Different approaches and perspectives often lead to conflicts among stakeholders and observers, as they may not always agree on how to address the issue at hand.
All communication is a form of commitment. To avoid greenwashing, it is crucial to be honest and measured in portraying your actions. Your actions should not be seen as a mere carbon offsetting scheme, but rather as a continuation of a prior and essential effort to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. It should contribute to global carbon neutrality by supporting the development of forest carbon sinks. The impact of your commitment should not be exaggerated in your communication. The environment should not be the sole focus of your communication, but rather the context in which your actions take place.

You may now have understood that at EcoTree, we believe that carbon credits, when used virtuously, represent an extraordinary lever to fight against climate change and preserve the world of tomorrow. That's why we offer unparalleled expertise in this field, guaranteeing the highest standards of use, traceability, and quality.

Our carbon methodology
  • EcoTree – CO2 Quantification methodology, version 3.1, of 2022/10/01
  • Professor F. Danos – Legal note on the ownership and allocation of carbon credits, 2023