Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

The climate crisis is an existential threat to life on this planet, but people around the world are working towards a better future. The IPCC, a panel of thousands of scientists, has modelled what we need to do to keep things at a manageable level. Based on their advice, we need to keep warming within 2*C of what the Earth’s temperature was in pre-industrial times.

As to exactly why it matters, it’s all so doom and gloom, google at your own risk. Here are a few resources to kick things off if you feel like a down buzz - Ministry for the Environment, World Resources Institute, and a snazzy cartoon from Vox.

While we may be small, we’re big on methane and we're a net exporter of emissions. Our gross greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 were 78.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e). Of this, 43% was from methane, a greenhouse gas that is 84x more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. This has seen us outrank coal-hungry countries like the US to pip 11th place in a ranking of emissions intensity (measured as emissions per GDP).

Back in '92, we agreed to reduce our climate impact in the Kyoto Protocol. In 2016, we set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 11% below 1990 levels by 2030. But in 2018, our net emissions were 57% higher than 1990 levels. Obviously, this ain't great, especially when compared to countries like the UK whose emissions in 2018 were 43.1% lower than 1990 levels

 With 10 years on the clock, we’ve got a long way to go to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.

We’ve been a bit naughty. From 2008 - 2015, our household emissions increased faster than those in 38 other countries. But now we’re recycling and using our own shopping bags, so why are we still emitting 11.8% more than we were in 2007?

Your car is the likely culprit. When we’re not working from home, we’re spending longer on the roads, nearly 3/4 of us use a car as a main means of transport, fewer kiwis walk or cycle to work today than in 2013, and only 11% of us use public transport regularly. Of course there are other factors, but how you get around is a major one.

We’ve made some huge strides lately with the Zero Carbon Act and updates to the Emissions Trading Scheme (check out the Ministry for the Environment for details). But even if we met our targets, Climate Action Tracker has reported that it still wouldn't be enough to keep global warming below 2*C and its impacts in check. They state that our statutory climate change framework lacks real teeth, we’ve gone soft on methane levels, and we’re super reliant on forestry to balance things out in the long term. 

If you’re reading this, you need to stop everything and get calculating. Personally, we like the FutureFit calculator but there are many others online.

The average New Zealander emits approx. 8.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every year (calculated based on leading studies by Motu, Ministry for the Environment, Toitu, Future Fit and the Global Carbon Atlas). To picture what 8.6 tonnes of CO2 looks like in the atmosphere, imagine an Olympic-sized swimming pool floating in the air (at room temperature). That’s roughly the size of it.

It’s practically impossible to live a modern life and not emit any greenhouse gases no matter how hard you try. You emit them directly by burning fossil fuels (e.g. as petrol in your Prius and in turning on the lights), and indirectly via the energy embedded in the things you buy and do (e.g. in the fertilizer used to grow your avocado, the rubber tyres on your bicycle, and in housing selfies on the cloud).

In fact, 71% of greenhouse gas emissions stem from the consumption choices households make and New Zealand households emissions are on the rise. What you consume and what you do matters.

Step 1 - Calculate. Calculate your carbon footprint to get a clearer idea of where your emissions come from. Unsurprisingly, we are terrible at gauging the carbon impact of our actions. Here is a practically impossible quiz to prove this point.

Step 2 - Reduce your emissions. Create a plan to reduce your own emissions based on your carbon footprint. You can do this at FutureFit. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, we recommend trying to prioritise the highest-impact actions first. These typically include things like living car-free (2.4 tCO2e saved per year), avoiding aeroplane travel (1.6 tCO2e saved per year), and eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e saved per year) according to research. To put this into perspective, eating a plant-based diet is 180x more effective at reducing emissions than using your own bags at the supermarket.

Step 3 - Reduce other emissions. You can only reduce your own emissions so much. By stopping at step 2, you are arbitrarily limiting the impact you can have. Helping others reduce their emissions lets you amplify your positive impact on the climate. You can do this by funding low-carbon projects (saving 10.4 tCO2e per year by joining the collective), petitioning for governmental change, and encouraging others to make climate-friendly choices.

Absolutely not. Funding low-carbon projects may allow you to save outsized amounts of carbon from the atmosphere in a relatively cost-effective manner, but doing so does not let you offset your high-carbon lifestyle. It is a supplement to other climate-friendly behaviour, most important of which is taking steps to reduce your own emissions.

Studies show that this type of trade-off thinking doesn’t readily apply to pro-environmental behaviour such as joining the collective. In fact, 81.8% of people agree that doing one pro-environmental act makes them more likely to do more. So, we’re hoping for a positive spillover effect - where our Co-Benefactors both fund low-carbon projects and go on to do much more for the climate.

Low-carbon projects reduce and remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere. They include things like forestry, renewable energy, biogas, cookstoves and clean water projects. 

The low-carbon projects we support need funding to go ahead. As a type of climate finance, low-carbon projects that meet certain criteria may be issued offsets to sell through regulated marketplaces based on the emissions they can save. Purchasing these offsets and helping to fund these projects lets us verifiably reduce global emissions.

For example, take a project swapping out kerosene lamps for solar-powered lighting in villages in Bangladesh. A solar-powered light reduces a villager’s greenhouse gas emissions as they no longer need to burn kerosene (which releases CO2 into the atmosphere). Doing so also has the benefit of reducing indoor smoke, decreasing respiratory illness and saving money as sunlight is free (all of which are co-benefits). The project’s overall emissions reduction is calculated and, if it meets certain criteria, it may be issued with a set number of carbon offsets units to sell for funding.

See the How it Works page for more.

Funding low-carbon projects is the most impactful thing you as an individual can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. For the cost of a 12-month car rego, you can save more emissions from the atmosphere than you emit in an entire year. It’s impossible to come close to this magnitude of reduction through lifestyle changes alone.

You can also help boost-up communities most vulnerable to climate change. All the projects we support meet at least 3 sustainable development goals (e.g. job creation, improved health and empowering women) with an outsized impact in low-income countries. This isn’t just anecdotal impact, the Gold Standard™ has assessed that every offset purchased from a biogas project (which costs approx. $30 NZD), creates $700 NZD of socio-economic value.

We support afforestation and reforestation projects, biodigesters, methane collectors, waste management, clean cookstoves, renewable lighting, water sanitation, micro-hydro, wind farms, waste to energy and solar power projects.

We only support projects we assess to be exceptionally high-impact. We factor in emissions reductions, pricing and co-benefits, and only fund projects in low-income countries certified by the Gold Standard™. The Gold Standard™ is a certifying body established in 2003 and is widely considered to be the strictest voluntary offset standards body available. See #4 below for more information on what this means for our projects.

See our Projects page for more detail.

We only fund projects certified by the Gold Standard™. The Geneva-based standard established in 2003 is widely considered to be the strictest voluntary offset standards body on the market. It is used by businesses, governments and individuals around the world and only the most rigorously assessed projects can qualify. Relying on this standard is the best we can do to ensure we're getting the emissions reductions we’re paying for.

Under this standard, a project needs to prove that its emissions reductions are:
- real (actually occur), 
- quantifiable (can be measured), 
- additional (wouldn’t have happened without the funding from offsets), 
- verifiable (can be independently checked by third parties), 
- monitored (are continuously reviewed and reported on by third parties), 
- permanent (continue for the project lifecycle), and 
- meet stringent sustainable development requirements. 

If a project can meet all of the above, it may be issued offsets to sell for funding. All offsets are transparently tracked on a public registry, so they can’t be traded twice.

Not in our opinion. We don’t think it’s truly feasible to offset the harm from your past emissions. We also think the idea of ‘offsetting’ artificially limits people’s emissions reductions ambitions.

We see donations to low-carbon projects as being a complement to climate-friendly lifestyle choices (such as flying less and eating less meat). We do think it’s important for people to be aware of the differences in impact between different climate-friendly acts, and to know that donating to low-carbon projects is a high-impact action, but we are not saying that a donation is a form of offsetting. It is simply a form of amplifying your impact.

Co-benefits are the additional social, environmental, economic and technological flow-on effects we get when we act to control climate change. They can range from decreased lung cancer rates as charcoal cookstoves are replaced with clean ones, to increased literacy rates as kids are able to do their homework after dark under solar-powered lights. This isn’t just anecdotal impact, the Gold Standard™ has assessed that every offset purchased from a biogas project (which costs approx. $30 NZD), creates $700 NZD of socio-economic value.

We think co-benefits are a pretty compelling part of any project on their own, and shouldn’t be seen as a secondary effect of a carbon mitigation project. That’s why we’ve adopted the term as our name.

Climate change threatens all life on Earth. It is the most pressing existential crisis we are facing, but the global community has a plan: to keep climate change within reasonable limits, we all need to half global emissions in the next 10 years and be at net-zero emissions in the next 30.

You could put your faith in the politicians and businesses of the world to sort this one out, but if the last three decades since the Kyoto Protocol was signed are anything to go on, don’t hold your breath. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to start stepping up and reducing emissions where they can. As Obama said, ‘we are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it’.

The atmosphere is truly global and doesn’t care if carbon is removed from it in Blenheim or in Bangladesh. We want to have the biggest bang for our buck and, as far as offsetting is concerned, we can have bigger bangs away from our fair isles.

Offset projects in New Zealand are predominantly forestry-related and are a comparatively expensive way to reduce global emissions (the price of planting a tree in Ngaruawahia costs much more than it does in Nicaragua). We simply can’t have the same level of climate impact in New Zealand per dollar as we can when we support projects in low-income countries.

Also, New Zealand offset projects are mostly all tied up in the Government’s Emissions Trading Scheme, leaving little leftover for voluntary purchases by people like you and me. Those that do sell directly are pretty cool, but as far as we’re aware, aren’t certified by the standards bodies we’ve committed to purchasing from in the interests of ensuring all offsets we purchase are independently verified.

We are all about generating the greatest good we can, and we can do much more good much more cost-effectively by funding projects that directly support the global poor. There are plenty of kiwis who could use a hand, but there are also 700million people waking up today into a level of poverty we would struggle to imagine. When it comes to the sheer number of lives we can improve, our dollars stretch much further overseas.

Also, by supporting projects in low-income countries, we’re helping to redistribute capital into communities that are less culpable for the climate mess we’ve found ourselves in, are more in need of support, and are most at risk of feeling the effects of global warming. Doing so brings with it an array of co-benefits, boosting up local communities and helping elevate everyone out of poverty.

In New Zealand, we like to think we’re responsible for a blip in global emissions compared to countries like China, but what we emit today doesn’t paint a complete picture. Greenhouse gasses accumulate in the atmosphere over centuries. We are a high-income country who industrialised by relying heavily on fossil fuels and are still a net exporter of emissions.

Because of our historic role, we have a greater responsibility to fight the climate crisis and help low-income countries industrialise without making the same high-carbon mistakes we did. For us, doing our fair share means aiming for more than net zero. Oxfam and an article in The Lancet have stated that our current goals are morally inadequate and, according to the Climate Equity Calculator, we should be aiming for 100% below 1990 levels of CO2e by 2030. We've currently committed to 11% below 1990 levels by 2030 (and it is looking like we are going to overshoot that). 

For every $5 you contribute, the bank takes around $0.23 to process your payment and the government takes $0.68 in GST (see #4 below on why we are not tax-exempt). 100% of the remaining $4.09 is used to purchase carbon offsets from low-carbon projects at cost price without any markup. That’s it.

You can track all your donations by signing in to your account. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions. We keep detailed accounts of all our transactions and are a completely transparent open book.

Payment processing fees are taken out on every single transaction we make. To keep these fees to a minimum, we've decided to bill monthly instead of weekly and to split the Keep-Our-Lights-On Fee across every payment. This averages out at $21.67 per month in contributions + $0.83 per month for the Keep-Our-Lights-On Fee, coming to a grand total of $22.50 a month.

Billing like this means more money gets to go to low-carbon projects (and less to the bank). 

The Keep-Our-Lights-On Fee is a transaction fee of $0.83 a month that we add on top of your payments to keep Co-Benefits alive and kicking. We have kindly been donated office space, so there are no actual lights we need to worry about keeping on, but we do have a website to maintain, software to run and a message to spread. If there is any extra profit left over after all our bills, 100% of it gets reinvested back into the organisation to further the fight against climate change. 

If you want to know more, every year we publish a report on our spending, so you can see how lean this ship is running. We are a completely transparent open book.

We are a nonprofit organisation with a charitable constitution - everything we do and all money we receive must advance our mission of encouraging and empowering New Zealanders to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions - but, this does not make us tax-exempt.

Unfortunately, the best way for us to further our mission jeopardises our eligibility to register as a charity under the New Zealand Charities Act (the Act) and/or obtain tax-exempt status from the IRD. There are two major hurdles. Firstly, the Act has a very narrow definition of what it considers to be a charitable purpose. Protection of the environment didn’t even count as charitable until Greenpeace won a long-fought legal battle in 2020, not to mention climate change. Secondly, the Act requires the benefits of a charity to flow directly to New Zealanders and the IRD only waives tax on monies spent locally. We intentionally send all our donations overseas where we can have the largest possible impact. But that’s not to say that New Zealanders are missing out. While our co-benefits are felt overseas, New Zealanders are getting the indirect benefits of a more stable future climate.

The Act needs a good spruce up, and we’re working on petitioning the government about this. Until then, we’re sorry but you won’t be able to get your tax back on any donations this year.

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