MAY 7, 2021
Bluesource’s 20th Birthday
STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE
20 Lessons Learned in the Carbon Markets
And What They Mean for Today and Tomorrow
As we reflect on and celebrate the last two decades of Bluesource, some themes and lessons emerged. In no particular order, we share our insight.
1. Be thick-skinned. Evolving markets, like the environmental markets, can be second guessed, misunderstood, underappreciated and opposed for any number of reasons. But they are certainly part of the answer. When others disagree and find fault in part or whole with this answer—publicly or privately—listen, learn, and then move forward.
2. Everything old is eventually new again. Certain technologies that were used in the early years of the carbon markets such as carbon capture and sequestration, soil carbon sequestration, and forest preservation went through a season where they fell out of favor with carbon market participants. In recent years, they have come full circle to regain favor as methodologies have received revisions and, in some cases, become more rigorous.
3. Governments change. The climate changes faster. Administrations, promises, and proposed legislation come and go. Bluesource has operated through 5 US Presidents—and there is still no national climate policy. Meanwhile, the climate crisis continues to exponentially increase. As global citizens, we cannot wait for our respective governments to lead the way. We must continue to take action both with and without federal support.
4. You can teach an old dog new tricks. There is no one beyond reach. With the right combination of shared experiences, incentives, technology, and market pressure, we can engage all manner of citizens, companies, governments, and systems in the fight against climate change.
5. Solutions must meet the market’s needs. Beginning with the Chicago Climate Exchange, attempts to commoditize the voluntary market have occupied a very small role in the voluntary market due to buyers’ needs for highly customized solutions and project-level knowledge. These efforts historically resulted in lowest-common-denominator pricing given the innately broad criteria; however, there’s no doubt that with increased transaction volumes in this space, massive efficiencies can be gained through similar efforts in the future. Now, we are in a situation where the Taskforce for Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets is calling for these markets to again be reformed to support a significant increase in transactions. Is the market ready to trade customization for increased efficiency? The time may well be nigh.
6. The lower the cost, the higher the scale. Climate action is a global problem that must see a global effort in response. We need to get to scale, and a powerful way to get the globe to engage is to keep it cost-effective. For example, California’s cap-and-trade program has demonstrated to the world the ability to reduce massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and concurrently achieve strong economic growth. This is the proof-of-concept that helps encourage other governments to develop their own tailored solutions that can support both environmental goals and a thriving economy.
7. The climate is a registered Independent. Climate change has been treated as a political tool and weaponized against Americans, creating fear on both sides of the aisle. As the crisis becomes more urgent, we need to divorce climate from politics and call it what it is: a pressing issue for all mankind.
8. Carbon is about people. When the carbon markets were established, SDGs weren’t a central theme of environmental benefit projects. Since then, their importance has grown and plays a significant role in how businesses and organizations choose projects that support their values and priorities, and they continue to help shape the market. Will markets develop to value these social attributes separate from carbon?
9. Legislation (and the threat thereof) drives market activity. Those in the industry were awaiting federal legislation to pass in the 2008-2009 timeframe and again, over a decade later, are still awaiting this federal legislation. Both then and now, there has been a substantial ramping up in voluntary carbon market activity and the creation of standards, new protocols, and exchanges to support an anticipated flood of activity. Some businesses ramped up and failed when legislation was not passed in 2009, and time will tell if the market’s preparation for pending legislation will cause a similar boom and bust if federal legislation is not successfully passed during the Biden Administration.
10. Measure twice, cut once. Accurate measurements are among the most essential tools in our collective toolbox. Measuring a footprint allows us to measure the reductions, which allows us to measure the impact and remaining need. Commitments that don’t robustly measure lack substance behind the words.
11. Play with passionate people. Surround yourself (both professionally and personally) with people who have passion, endless energy, and enthusiasm. Work is hard, complex, and wearing—especially when work is a long-game business. Being with others that believe in the work and in each other is critical for the valleys that inevitably come and seem to last way too long.
12. A pandemic may have been the ultimate test for climate ambition. The climate won. Despite some of the worst economic conditions, constrained budgets, lowered revenue, and severe business challenges, climate ambition accelerated and companies continued to invest in climate solutions throughout 2020.
13. Preferences reflect a change in the status quo. Renewable energy, along with energy efficiency—once the preferred project type of the Gold Standard—is now in question for larger projects. As the world evolves and renewable energy becomes more accessible, guidelines are being updated to reflect the current status quo. This is an appropriate evolution and encourages the market to find ways to incentivize innovation even as the status quo changes.
14. Incentives matter. Manure digesters were eligible to create offsets in the early 2000s through voluntary carbon standards that struggled to gain momentum. In 2018, these same digesters became eligible to upgrade the biogas to pipeline quality and connect that renewable natural gas with off-takers in California. The powerful incentive of lucrative Low Carbon Fuel Standard credits in California sparked a gold rush. The LCFS program is driving more methane abatement from manure digesters than carbon offsets ever did. Finding the right incentive is paramount to driving climate action.
15. There’s no one, singular right answer. As we fight an ever-evolving battle against climate change, we cannot ignore good solutions in the hunt for a silver bullet. We must throw every idea that we have at this issue for immediate action while we continue to research and plan for the future. Friendly fire and drive-by critics inadvertently create a “call to inaction” by paralyzing progress in favor of perfection.
16. Failure isn’t final. Over the last two decades, we’ve taken risks that didn’t pay off—not in the traditional sense. Some have made us cautious, and some have made us optimistic. An inability to successfully launch an idea does not mean the idea will never flourish. We’ve learned as many lessons through failure as we have success.
17. Embrace the frenemies and coopetition. Some of the people we respect the most in this space are our competitors. These passionate climate activists work alongside us toward common environmental goals—amid competing business interests. We celebrate their accomplishments and the camaraderie that is created as we tackle this issue together.
18. Environmental justice can go hand in hand with carbon markets. The Clean Development Mechanism got its name in recognition that the “developed” world is responsible for the bulk of global emissions, while “developing” populations are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The intent of the program was to funnel investment dollars from developed countries into developing. Carbon offset projects have an opportunity to elevate the voices of those closest to the consequences of climate change by valuing the humanity of these populations and listening to the solutions that they suggest.
19. This is the long game. Net-zero and carbon neutrality commitments are a long game. Corporate environmental goals need to be developed with a long-term vision, not for just the now. True environmental progress is made when an organization considers who they want to be in 30 years and what they want their impacts to be then, not just in the now to 5-year scenario. We’ve enjoyed multiple client relationships that span decades, and it’s been amazing to see their corporate cultures evolve to value the environment and their role in it.
20. It’s not just about you, or us. Living for something greater than yourself is the only way to live. Business for profit without a greater purpose is just not enough. Everyone will spend their life’s equity doing something, so make sure your time is spent also improving the lives of those around you and those that will follow you. There is no greater return on your efforts.
WHAT’S NEW AT BLUE
20 YEARS OF INNOVATIONS AND FIRST-OF-THEIR-KIND PROJECTS
Today on the blog, we celebrate the “firsts” at Bluesource. Over the last two decades, we’ve led many first-of-their-kind technologies, projects, and investments. We look back on all of our milestones in a chronological graphic.
BLUESOURCE COMMITS TO SEQUESTER 300 MILLION TONS OF CO2E BY 2030
We’re excited to announce our commitment to 1 Trillion Trees! By joining this movement, we pledge to sequester 300 million tons of CO2e through forest carbon offset projects. This commitment will require us to rapidly grow our existing portfolio of 2.6 million protected acres–a challenge we’re excited to tackle.
FROM FOOTPRINTS TO PAWPRINTS
Bluesource worked with Tailored Pet Nutrition to make all customer shipments 100% carbon neutral. By investing in our nature-based solutions, the company rewards landowners for environmentally friendly practices while reducing its own ‘paw print.’
TURO: THE FIRST CARBON NEUTRAL CAR SHARING COMPANY
Bluesource led Turo through the process of carbon neutrality, helping it become the first carbon-neutral car sharing company. This is just one more step forward in industry-leading sustainability initiatives for Turo.
CAMPBELL GLOBAL ANNOUNCES CLIMATE POSITIVE STATUS
Campbell Global announced that its carbon footprint is now climate positive. To calculate the carbon footprint, Campbell collaborated with Bluesource on the development of a credible and repeatable methodology based on the Forest Industry Carbon Assessment Tool™ (FICAT) modeling framework.
BLUESOURCE IS GETTING BIGGER AND BETTER
In 2020, despite the chaos, we expanded our team by 14 positions! Our workforce is made up of the best and brightest that are passionate about our mission and values. We have a distributed team who live in 11 US states (CA, CO, GA, MI, MS, NY, OR, SD, UT, VA, and WA) and 4 Canadian provinces (AB, ON, NS, and BC). Oh, and we’re hiring.
ARVA AND BLUESOURCE CREATE MARKET-LEADING SOLUTIONS IN AG
Bluesource announced a partnership with Arva Intelligence to provide an integrated end-to-end solution for organizations implementing regenerative ag solutions. Arva’s cutting-edge AI technology and deep expertise in soil and environmental sciences make them an obvious partner of choice for this collaboration.
STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE – THE BLOG
The latest addition to our new site is a blog where our experts provide education and commentary on all manner of topics. Recent posts include a discussion of Scope 3 emissions, blockchain and non-fungible tokens, and how to heed Taskforce recommendations while maintaining institutional knowledge.
Classic To Contemporary: How the Cyclical Nature of Carbon Markets Promotes Innovation
JUNE 8, 2021
As Bluesource celebrates two decades of climate action, we reflect on the trends that have come and gone and come again. We’ll hear from experts who helped launch the original heyday of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and get an update from the leaders of the nouveau CCS movement. We’ll also look at renewable natural gas and the way that incentives can drive an entire sector from offset credits to Low Carbon Fuel Standard credits. We’ll learn what happens when market interest and preference change faster than technology does, and how projects can evolve to keep up with the trends. Sign up here.
Leveraging Nature-Based Solutions to Drive Down Emissions – Hosted by C2ES
FEBRUARY 23, 2021
This webinar examined how companies can approach using nature-based solutions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, including the most effective use of resources when investing in nature-based solutions, understanding the growing role of carbon removal in reaching net-zero emissions, and the criteria companies should consider when selecting projects. The webinar also explored how to leverage natural solutions to reduce emissions within and outside a company’s value chain. Watch the recording here.
AWARD-WINNING METHANE REDUCTION PROGRAM
WHERE TO MEET US
As our cities become safer and COVID-19 rates drop, we look forward to reopening. Our Salt Lake City office officially reopens May 17 and we hope to see you at our other offices and conferences in the very near future.