Cool Earth and Carbon


Is Cool Earth a Carbon offset scheme?

No, we are much, much more. Most offset schemes match your carbon footprint to an equivalent reduction in emissions somewhere else in the world. This is usually an industrial process or a more efficient technology that is reducing waste. These offsets are done on a one-to-one basis and it could be argued that the improved efficiency would have happened anyway.

All trees represent a store of carbon. Their trunks, branches and roots are carbohydrates created by carbon dioxide breathed in, oxygen breathed out and water sucked up. Rainforest is found where growing conditions are perfect with maximum sunlight, warmth and water.

Cool Earth’s village partners have all been pressured to sell their trees for timber or ranchland, palm oil or mining. They have refused and instead work to keep the world’s most potent store of carbon and biodiversity intact. You’d think this would cost more than an offset scheme but in fact it’s an incredibly cost efficient way to keep carbon locked in.

Across all our partnerships, it costs us around £60 to protect an acre of rainforest. This figure reflects the population size, area of forest, and opportunity costs of refusing offers from loggers. An acre of rainforest stores on average 270 tonnes of carbon in the trunks, branches and roots of trees. Carbon that would be released into the atmosphere as CO2 if the trees were felled.

Given that buying carbon offsets usually costs around £8 per tonne, you can see why we’re on to a smart idea.

Carbon Mitigation with Cool Earth

We offer a direct action carbon mitigation initiative that locks up a minimum of five times your carbon footprint but is a fraction of the price. It’s not a one for one offset package; we use a minimum ratio of five tonnes of emissions prevented for every one tonne emitted.

But that’s not all. The best bit is that as well as locking in carbon, Cool Earth partnerships deliver some incredible co-benefits



A forest protection agreement is signed at the beginning of every village partnership that agrees that Cool Earth funding will be given as long as no trees are logged. Budgets must be approved by the community as a whole and fall under one of six general spending categories. These are: poverty, health, education, micro-credit, sustainable incomes and conservation training.

This is really important, as our previous partnerships have shown that by investing in these things, communities can make more money from sustainable income streams (like coffee, cacao, and jewellery) than they would from selling their trees. This means that we can be confident that no trees will be felled in Cool Earth’s partnerships whilst the communities are living – and making a living – in the area.

Our data refers to projects implemented to date. We take pride in the fact that our light touch model works under any local conditions, but appreciate that new projects and global changes may bring new challenges and circumstances which are difficult in ways we haven’t encountered previously. Our strict monitoring and evaluation framework helps to ensure that Cool Earth partnerships are as future-proof as possible.

Read more about how a partnership works


We use the latest research on carbon storage. There is no significant variation in the type or density of forests protected in Cool Earth partnerships and the most current research suggests that 270 tonnes of carbon per acre of primary rainforest is at the lower level: most rainforest stores between 260 and 340 tonnes per acre in above-ground biomass. It’s worth pointing out that our figures don’t include soil or other below-ground carbon storage, which increases the carbon storage capacity of rainforests many times over.

Our figures for each partnership, and our average CO2 per acre figure, come from the following research papers:

Peru: 233 (Saatchi et al (2011) PNAS)

DRC: 270 (Kearsley et al (2013) Nature Communications)

PNG: 313 (Vincent et al (2015) Austral Ecology)

Average: 272


REDD stands for Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Degradation and refers to rainforest conservation projects that generate carbon credit. REDD+ is a mechanism to reward developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

After the COP21 in Paris in December, REDD+ has been adopted by governments as a climate change mitigation solution, with the aim of helping to reduce up to 20% of global carbon emissions.

Cool Earth has some concerns about REDD+. Firstly, it doesn’t necessarily incentivise or promote ‘non-carbon benefits’, which include biodiversity, indigenous rights, human rights, land rights, livelihoods, transparency and accountability. It’s carbon storage first, everything else second – a view that’s exactly opposite to how Cool Earth operates. For indigenous groups specifically, there are concerns that REDD+ will cause further land grabs and human rights violations.

Second, of the billions invested in REDD+, comparatively little trickles down to on-the-ground investment in rainforest-saving initiatives. Exactly how much money goes where within the general term of ‘Direct support to the design and implementation of UN-REDD National Programme’ is not clear but there is a proportionally higher amount going to the Policy Board and Multi-Donor Trust Fund Office than any individual country.

Of the funds pledged to REDD projects between 2008 and 2012, less than half have been disbursed to projects. Cool Earth spends more than 90% of our donors’ funds on saving forest, with not a penny going to governments, intermediary organisations, or middle-men.

Where communities have asked for more information about REDD, we have provided workshops to explain what would be involved if this path was pursued.


Cool Earth doesn’t have a carbon footprint calculator but if you’d like to work out the carbon emissions you or your business cause, we recommend the Carbon Calculator that our partners Planet First have developed. You can download the calculator here.


Cool Earth and Carbon

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