9 ways Tradewater made a difference in 2023, and our outlook for the new year

The Tradewater team

The Tradewater team at our 2023 retreat.

 

In this global era, we are moved by forces shaping entire nations, financial systems, and political infrastructures. Change is our constant, and it is crucial that we remain vigilant and responsive when the task at hand is protecting our planet. 

The most climate-forward among us, who mark these shifts and can measure the progress we are making within them, know that we will need to be even more proactive, with amplified efforts and renewed energy in 2024.  

At Tradewater, we are reviewing our successes and challenges, solidifying new partnerships, and readying ourselves now to springboard off the groundwork we laid in 2023.  

In recognition of what it took to get us here, I want to take a moment to thank our Tradewater team members, our partners, and our collaborators as we celebrate our collective successes: 

 9 ways we made a difference in 2023 

  1. Small team, huge impact: We are proud to share that last year, we permanently prevented over 2.8 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering our atmosphere, bringing our total impact to date to over 8 million tons. As we continue to scale our work, we are on track to have over 5 million tons of impact in 2024.
  2. Expansion of our global team: In 2023 we were thrilled to add to our team, welcoming 17 new team members. We now have team members based in Canada, the U.S., Costa Rica, Malaysia, Egypt, India, UK, South Africa, Thailand, and Spain. In November, most of our staff gathered at Tradewater’s Chicago headquarters, where we had the chance to connect in person, share ideas about how to amplify our impact and solidify our collective vision for 2024.
  3. Kickoff of our methane program in the U.S.: Tradewater’s methane program officially launched in the U.S. with the development of several new projects that plugged orphaned gas wells actively leaking methane. These projects permanently prevented the release of large volumes of methane and established momentum for this growing program.  
  4. Impactful partnerships: Our list of valued partners in this work grows steadily and will continue to help us scale our efforts. In 2023, Tradewater became a member of the Project Drawdown Labs Business Coalition and completed our first year of an impactful media partnership with We Don’t Have Time, which included broadcast appearances at Stockholm Climate Week and COP 28. We also partnered with organizations across sectors, including Patch, Watershed, Cloverly, Cool Effect, Lynx Asset Management, Mapbox, https://www.nowhere-collective.com/Thoughtworks, TTP, Watershed, WeTransfer, Wren, and the list goes on. 
  5. Building new pathways to address non-CO2 gases: In early 2023, Tradewater was recognized for its outstanding global leadership and pioneering work in managing the multinational collection and destruction of dangerous, ozone-depleting greenhouse gases. The innovative methodology we co-developed with ACR Registry was lauded for making carbon financing more accessible for critical ozone-depleting substance collection and destruction.
    Beyond co-developing pioneering methodologies, last year we utilized four different methodologies that involved the permanent destruction of CFCs and HCFCs, as well as the permanent plugging of methane leaks.    
  6. Global recognition: We are expanding our presence in the B Corp universe. In November, B Corp U.S./Canada released a case study featuring companies across a variety of industries that are centering inclusive, equitable, and regenerative solutions in their climate actions, and Tradewater was proud to be featured as one of the five companies leading the way. For the fourth year in a row, Giving Green recommended us as one of the most effective carbon offset providers. We attended COP28 and participated in many productive conversations, including this interview on We Don’t Have Time’s The Climate Hub. 
  7. Establishment of a new climate benefit facility: The innovative Climate Benefit Facility enables advanced purchase commitments that guarantee access to credit volumes over time with price certainty. The Facility custodian will reserve credits for buyers and deliver them to our customers per the terms of the advanced purchase agreements. This enables us to aggressively ramp up our pipeline development efforts globally, creating new climate benefits today, when they are needed most.    
  8. Expansion into new global markets: We are increasing our global reach with active project development in 8 different countries, including our landmark Thailand project that kicked off in early 2023. When completed later this year, the project will have permanently prevented over 1.1 million tons of CO2e from entering our atmosphere.   
  9. Jumpstarting new compliance markets: In December, Tradewater was among the two first project developers that were issued offset credits in the state of Washington since the inception of its cap-and-invest program. We developed offset projects providing direct environmental benefits to Washington through their Ozone Depleting Substances Protocol, receiving 139,956 Ecology offset credits—but this is only the beginning of our work to support the state of Washington in meeting their climate goals through high impact climate solutions. 

Looking ahead at 2024 

 We are proud of this list. Its outcomes helped lay the foundation for us to develop project pipelines looking as far ahead as 2027, toward our overall goal of at least 22 million tons of impact of the next few years. We are on track and positioned to meet our immediate goals for the coming year and beyond.  

In 2024:  

  • Our U.S. halocarbon program will expand our work in the newly established Washington compliance market while continuing our longstanding work in the California market. 
  • The International Halocarbon program will deliver projects around the world, including Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and Chile, and explore emerging global compliance markets. New development efforts will explore opportunities in dozens of countries, as our international team continues to engage in international policy dialogues including Meeting of the Parties (MOP) of the Montreal Protocol and the Climate and Ozone Protection Alliance (COPA). 
  • The Methane team will continue to pursue opportunities in the U.S. to expand this critical program. They will also turn their attention to global opportunities, identifying additional countries to pursue, and the necessary protocol development to support this geographic expansion. 
  • As an organization, we will continue to raise awareness about the absolute urgency of tackling non-CO2 emissions through our outreach efforts, our strong partnerships, and the work of our talented, growing team of climate-committed staff members. 
  • …and much more. 

As we execute the 2024 plan, we will continue to look for effective ways to expand our impact to ensure that we have the largest and fastest impact possible, adding our immediate and essential piece to global climate change mitigation efforts. 

Permanence

Emission reductions are considered permanent if they are not reversible. In some projects, such as forestry or soil preservation, carbon offset credits are issued based upon the volume of CO2 that will be sequestered over future decades—but human actions and natural processes such as forest fires, disease, and soil tillage can disrupt those projects. When that happens, the emission reductions claimed by the project are reversed.

The destruction of halocarbon does not carry this risk. All destruction activities in Tradewater’s projects are conducted pursuant to the Montreal Protocol , which requires “a destruction process” that “results in the permanent transformation, or decomposition of all or a significant portion of such substances.” Specifically, the destruction facilities Tradewater uses must meet or exceed the recommendations of the UN Technology & Economic Assessment Panel , which approves certain technologies to destroy halocarbons, including the requirement that the technology achieve a 99.99% or higher “destruction and removal efficiency.” Simply put, this means that Tradewater’s technologies ensure that over 99.99% of the chemicals are permanently destroyed. During the destruction process, a continuous emission monitoring system is used to ensure full destruction of the ODS collected.

Accuracy

Some carbon offset projects necessarily rely on estimations or assumptions when calculating the emission reductions from project activities. Forestry projects, where developers make assumptions about the carbon that will be sequestered over future decades if trees are conserved, are a perfect example. Such projects sometimes result in an overestimation of the environmental benefit of the project.

Tradewater’s halocarbon projects avoid the issue of overestimation by consistently conducting extremely precise testing and measurement of the amount of refrigerant destroyed in each project.

  • Every container of ODS that Tradewater destroys is weighed by a third-party using regularly calibrated scales. The ODS is then sampled by a third-party and analyzed by an accredited refrigerant laboratory to determine its species and purity. These two steps combine to ensure that credits are issued only for the precise volume and type of refrigerant destroyed.
  • The destruction facilities that Tradewater uses continuously monitor the incineration process during destruction events to ensure that over 99.99% of the ODS is destroyed. This monitoring is mandated by regulatory protocols and is part of the verification process to which projects are subjected.
  • Tradewater accounts for the project emissions created during the collection, transport, and destruction of ODS, and the number of offsets issued is reduced by a corresponding amount. The protocols that we use also build in other reductions to account for substitute chemicals that will be used to replace the destroyed refrigerants. Tradewater publishes this information in the documentation for all its ODS destruction projects. These documents outline how the material was obtained, the project emissions calculations, the test results, and the amount and type of ODS chemicals destroyed, among other information.
  • Additionality

    It is a basic requirement of all carbon offset projects that the underlying project activities are additional. “Additional” means that the projects would not happen in the absence of a carbon market. Tradewater’s halocarbon projects simply would not happen – and the gases would be left to escape into the atmosphere – without the sale of the resulting carbon offset credits. This is because there is no mandate to collect and destroy these gases. It is still permissible to buy, sell, and use halocarbons that were produced before the ban. There are other reasons halocarbon destruction projects are additional:

    • There are no incentives or financial mechanisms to encourage halocarbon destruction. According to the International Energy Agency and United Nations Environment Program, “there is rarely funding nor incentive” to recover and destroy ozone depleting substances in storage tanks and discarded equipment. And collecting, transporting, and destroying halocarbons is time-intensive and expensive. The burden to collect and destroy these gases therefore remains prohibitive outside of carbon offset markets—meaning that if organizations like Tradewater do not do this work, nobody else will.
    • Countries are not focused on the need to collect and destroy halocarbons. The Montreal Protocol has been celebrated as a success because of its production ban. This success, however, ignores the legacy gases produced before the ban and is a blind spot for government regulators. In the U.S., for example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a Vintaging Model in the 1990s to estimate the quantify of ozone depleting substances left in circulation. Based on the inputs and assumptions put into the model, the EPA predicted that no CFCs would be available for recovery beyond 2020 in the United States. But this prediction did not prove accurate. Tradewater has collected and destroyed more than 1.5 million pounds of CFCs globally in recent years and continues to identify thousands of pounds per week.
    • International carbon accounting standards do not require corporations to measure or track emissions tied to halocarbons, and refrigerants are specifically excluded from Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) commitments. These commitments derive from emissions reporting under the GHG Protocol, which requires companies to report on emissions only from new generation refrigerants, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), but does not establish any obligation to report inventories or emissions of refrigerants still in use, such as CFCs and HCFCs. All these factors combine to make Tradewater’s carbon offset projects highly additional. As Giving Green, an initiative of IDinsight, concluded: “Tradewater would not exist without the offset market, so this element of additionality is clearly achieved.” The case for additionality is not so clear for some other project types, such as forestry and landfill gas carbon projects. For example, some forests are already being conserved for their beauty, or for use as parks, and generate carbon offset credits only because those conservation efforts do not yet have full formal protection in place to avoid deforestation in the future. Similarly, methane from landfills can be used to make electricity or captured as compressed natural gas, thereby creating additional revenue streams to support the activities, beyond the sale of carbon credits.