The mission of Carbon Offsets To Alleviate Poverty (COTAP) is to empower individuals in developed countries to simultaneously tackle the world’s biggest environmental challenge (global warming) and the world’s biggest humanitarian challenge (extreme poverty).
In developing countries around the world, hundreds of millions of people live in rural areas on less than $2 per day. This poverty level makes them vulnerable because it forces them to make hard choices between food, health care, and education. It is the poverty level where an estimated 11 million children die every year. Many of these same people are not good fits for traditional microfinance, which tends to be primarily urban, and they are also disconnected from markets for goods which they could produce to be sold elsewhere.
The proven potential of small-scale forestry carbon projects
Meanwhile, small-scale afforestation, reforestation, and agro-forestry programs have a proven track record of reaching such communities and for creating direct, significant, verifiable and lasting economic benefits for them. One of the most compelling ways to finance such activities is through the sale of carbon credits.
Unfortunately, small-scale forestry projects have traditionally had limited success selling their carbon credits because the majority of offset customers and/or project investors are typically only interested in paying for the carbon commodity part of the equation. Further, tree planting carbon projects as a category are unique relatively to the majority of other carbon project types because its credits are issued more slowly, are small relative to necessary amount of up-front investment, and entail a variety of unique risks, albeit highly manageable ones.
The small-scale forestry carbon financing gap
The above factors such as these have created a forestry carbon financing gap, whereby project organizers are able often able to obtain a fair per-tonne price, at an early stage, and at volume – but rarely, if ever, are they able to attain all of these factors at the same time. If this problem were solved, then the proven and multifaceted solution of small-scale forestry could rapidly expand, thereby lifting the poorest out of poverty, mitigating climate change, enhancing food security, and restoring landscapes at a much larger scale.
COTAP is founded on the belief that this gap, though very understandable, is an unacceptable market failure given forestry carbon projects’ ability to reach and empower the world’s most vulnerable populations. Who does COTAP believe can fill this gap? Individuals in developed countries. Virtually all individuals in developed countries have unavoidable carbon footprints, and many people are highly concerned about global warming, global poverty, or both.
The need for a crowdfunding intermediary
Every year, small-scale forestry projects plant trees which will result in the projected sequestration and long-term storage of tens of thousands of tonnes of CO2; however, the average annual individual CO2 footprint is relatively very small in comparison, CO2 footprints vary among individuals, and individuals have different preferences and budgets pertaining to how much of their footprint they wish to address.
COTAP is the critical intermediary which fills the gap between individuals and these poverty-alleviating projects by pooling together offset donations from many individuals and organizations and then working with projects to ensure that commensurate quantities of the offset they’ve generated will be retired, which means they cannot be re-sold.
The net effect is that, through COTAP, you’re indirectly employing the poorest people in the world to plant and maintain trees which counteract the emissions which you have not yet been able to eliminate. This empowers you to fight both climate change and poverty with one tax-deductible donation, and it empowers our participating farmers by connecting them with funding that’s at an early stage in the planting cycle, at a fair price, and at significant volume.
COTAP makes individuals in developed countries, primarily the U.S., aware of the poverty-alleviating power of forestry carbon projects, and COTAP makes forestry carbon credits accessible to individuals in small amounts and as a tax-deductible donation.
COTAP sources carbon offset funds from those who care about both climate change and poverty alleviation, pools those funds, and transparently matches those funds with our partners’ forestry projects in order to fill the forestry carbon finance gap, restore landscapes, and create direct, significant, verifiable, and lasting benefits for the most economically vulnerable people in the world.
All of COTAP’s current portfolio projects are registered under the Edinburgh, Scotland-based Plan Vivo carbon accounting standard. With roots stretching back to a research project in Chiapas, Mexico in 1994, Plan Vivo is the longest-standing and most established forestry carbon accounting standard in the world. Plan Vivo is also the only carbon accounting standard which always requires projects to have detailed plans for direct payments to smallholders and community groups. Plan Vivo-accredited projects are projected to sequester over 1.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
An entirely new category of high-performance philanthropy
COTAP’s dual mission, crowdfunding model, and tax-deductible status, together with Plan Vivo’s reach, accountability, and transparency, forms a new category of microfinance and a new category of high-performance philanthropy while doubling the number of reasons for individuals and organizations to take action on climate change.
On an annual basis, COTAP aims to eventually catalyze millions of tonnes of validated carbon sequestration, millions of planted trees, and tens of millions of dollars in wages to hundreds of smallholder farmers who live on less than $2 per day. Unlike “crowdsourced” philanthropic models which involve loans, grants, matched savings, or guarantees, COTAP involves wages.
COTAP creates a new system whereby the world’s most vulnerable perform the service of counteracting the unavoidable carbon footprint of individuals in developed countries. We believe this has the potential to be a service as tangible as preparing your taxes or mowing your lawn. This will not be simple, easy, or quick, but this is one of the many things that is worth doing despite all of the challenges. It requires a movement, and we invite you to join us in our movement to make tomorrow brighter.