Why This Work Matters Now

Tim Brown

I have had a long career working in the environmental field, focusing on a wide range of problems and their potential solutions. Those of us who have been fighting for the planet for a long time know how easy it is to lose hope and feel we are always in an uphill battle. The climate crisis is certainly one of those uphill battles, but I am pleased to have identified a path to meaningful impact—the collection, control, and destruction of potent greenhouse gases.

Let me tell you more.

We all know that the main culprit of climate change is carbon dioxide (CO2). Most global policy efforts are appropriately focused on reducing CO2 emissions, and there is a lot of important work being done by dedicated individuals to address this.

However, what many people are not aware of is that there are other potent greenhouse gases aside from CO2 out there. These non-CO2 gases also pose an extremely urgent threat, accounting for about half of the warming the planet has experienced since 1970—but alarmingly, very few people are focused on these potent non-CO2 gases.

Which is where we come in.

Tradewater is a mission-based company dedicated to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Last year we became a certified B-Corp to further express our values and intentions. There is no question about it—we are committed. And our commitment is to fight climate change by preventing non-CO2 gases from being released into the atmosphere, as much as possible, and as soon as possible.

This is why we are finding, collecting, and destroying refrigerant gases that are over 10,000 times as potent as carbon dioxide, and why we are plugging uncontrolled sources of leaking methane, which is a powerful short-lived climate pollutant 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane also accounts for 25% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions from human activity and is the second leading cause of climate change after CO2.

Here are a few facts that anyone who cares about climate change should know:

  • There is no pathway to prevent 1.5o C of warming without addressing non-CO2 gases. 
  • Non-CO2 gases like refrigerants and methane cannot be removed from the atmosphere once they are released. The only option is to prevent their release in the first place.
  • Whereas the Montreal Protocol banned the production of old refrigerants that are ozone depleting substances (e.g., chlorofluorocarbon [CFC], and hydrochlorofluorocarbon [HCFC]), over 20 billion tons of CO2 equivalent in the form of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) are distributed around the world and in need of collection and destruction.
  • Methane accounts for 25% of the global warming we are experiencing today.
  • If we reduce methane emissions by 40% over the next ten years, we can prevent .3o C of warming by 2040.

Scaled-up efforts to collect, control, and destroy non-CO2 gases will make a significant difference in the short term and buy more time for the global implementation of long-term and essential CO2-based reduction strategies.

To achieve this impact, two things must happen: we must collect, control, and destroy as many non-CO2 gases as we possibly can, and we must find partners who value these climate benefits. It is through climate finance – the sale of high quality, additional, and permanent carbon offset credits – that meaningful scale will be achieved.

Since we started this work in 2012, we have collected and destroyed gases that are the equivalent of over 6 million tons of CO2. But we are reaching for new heights. In 2023 alone, we are slated to prevent 3.5 million tons of CO2e releases, and are projecting 22 million tons of impact through 2027.

We do not have much time to avert catastrophic climate change, so it is important for everyone to define their path to the greatest impact and get to work.

This work really matters. And it matters right now.

Learn more about why this work matters.


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.


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.