Rethinking carbon offsetting by empowering communities

Matthew Taylor's avatar
Matthew Taylor
Agrosmart founder and CEO Mariana Vasconcelos discussing carbon offsetting in Brazil

Recent revelations about carbon offsetting have raised questions about its efficacy. Can local communities unlock a better approach to carbon capture?

Every year the effects of climate change become more evident, and more devastating. Urgent action is required to arrest this change, and Brazil is at the center of this action.

According to Reuters, deforestation of the Amazon rainforest declined by 11% in 2022. Although still experiencing destruction at a rate greater than any year from 2009-2020, any decline is welcome.

While reducing the release of carbon in all aspects of our lives, and especially for businesses, resources such as the rainforest are vital for removing existing carbon from the atmosphere.

Carbon offsets and agriculture

But according to Aaron Randall, co-founder and CTO of Supercritical, “85 percent of conventional carbon offsets don’t do anything”. This is half of an unsettling story.

The other half? “We need to remove 10 million tonnes of carbon annually by 2050. At this stage, we can only remove a few hundred thousand tonnes,” said Aaron.

Deforestation accounts for the greatest bulk of Brazil’s carbon emissions, and is largely driven by global demand for beef and soy products.

Given that agriculture is the biggest force behind deforestation, and by extension carbon emissions, the sector needs to do more to go green. What’s more, farmers and agriculture workers generally are much more vulnerable to climate change than many other workers.

Rethinking carbon markets

But there is hope. Agrosmart founder and CEO Mariana Vasconcelos thinks Brazil – a global agricultural producer – can help as “a powerhouse for providing ecosystem services”.

To make that happen, Mariana said we need to rethink how the carbon market works, adding that “the idea of having a carbon market is a way of financing; of finding mechanisms for diverting value to the end user so they have money to invest in transiting to more sustainable practices”.

Mariana said carbon offsetting – the practice of businesses paying compensation for carbon emissions – has money swapping hands at the wrong stage of the ecosystem. Companies involved in carbon capture, Mariana suggested, would be more effective at engaging stakeholders on the ground, such as farmers and conservation groups, in order to properly negate greenhouse gases.

Mariana also said that, while new ways of capturing and removing carbon from Earth’s atmosphere is great, “we don’t just need technologies. We need public policy”.

For the planet to collectively tackle its total carbon emissions, change should start from the top.

Join us in Rio this May where we’ll bring together 15,000-plus people and the companies redefining the tech industry. Book your tickets for Web Summit Rio now.

Main image of Mariana Vasconcelos, Founder & CEO, Agrosmart: Lukas Schulze/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)


QAnon: The other pandemic

In the darker recesses of the internet, the QAnon phenomenon thrives. Rooted in an almost messianic dedi...

February 1

Speaking truth to power in dangerous times

Where can people access quality reporting? What is the future of...

February 1