Carbon: An Overview

What it is and why it matters

As the building block of all life on Earth, carbon is essential for our survival. On its own, carbon exists in many pure forms, including diamond and graphite.

But in environmental terminology, carbon has become shorthand for referring to greenhouse gases in general including – CO2 – the most impactful of all the greenhouse gases that are currently driving climate change.

A carbon footprint calculation takes into account all the seven main greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contribute to climate change. It is measured in tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) which is the universal unit for measuring GHG emissions and is used to indicate the global warming potential (GWP) of all GHGs, expressed in terms of the GWP of one unit of carbon dioxide.

A view of Khe Nuoc Trong, Vietnam
Carbon Stock

Although other GHGs like nitrous oxide have a far greater GWP than CO2, it is the abundance of the latter within our atmosphere that makes it the biggest danger to life on our planet. Thankfully, it is also the GHG that we can have the greatest influence on. Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy alone would reduce the world’s emissions by over 50%.

WLT measure the growth of carbon stock in our projects by following an internationally recognised method that adheres to the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standards (CCBS). The process begins by using satellite imagery and remote sensing (including LiDAR) in the project area to stratify the forest through the classification of its condition (e.g. primary or secondary forest).

Then, several random forest inventory plots of 3,600 m2 (about 9/10th of an acre) are established. In these areas, each tree is tagged, and the stem diameter at 130cm high is recorded by the field staff. This measurement allows equations known as allometrics to calculate the biomass of each tree, as well as how much carbon is stored within it. The data is then scaled to inventory plot, strata and finally project area to confirm the total carbon stock.