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Frequently Asked Questions
Here you will find answers to common questions about our Acorn program.
Through photosynthesis, plants remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air, release oxygen (O2) back into the atmosphere and use the carbon (C) for growth. Trees consist of roughly 50% carbon and therefore filter a significant amount of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Whenever a company wants to reduce its CO2 impact, it will first do so by reducing its emissions. But such efforts have a limit. If a company has a target emissions level that is lower than what it can achieve through reduction measures, a company can compensate for this difference by investing in carbon credits. A carbon credit represents an amount (often 1000 kg) of compensated CO2.
Rabobank is developing the Acorn program to be based on actual CO2 stored in planted trees, not on the prevention of emissions as is the case in many other programs. In addition, Acorn units are sold after the fact, when the trees have already converted CO2 into biomass. We can measure stored CO2 on a smallholder farmer’s land with the help of remote sensing technology, such as satellite imagery. Because the program emphasizes realized removal of CO2 (often referred to as ‘ex post’) and because we measure the amount removed from the atmosphere, we speak about carbon removal units rather than carbon credits.
Agroforestry is the integration of forestry into agricultural practices. This could be a coffee plantation with shade trees, a meadow where cows graze among fruit groves, or a permaculture system in which the pruning waste from shrubs and trees feeds goats, whose manure in turn becomes fertilizer.
Smallholder farmers are hit hardest by climate change. Desertification, extreme rain or extreme drought and rising temperatures are all problems they face on a daily basis. Smallholder farmers also have limited access to financing and therefore cannot easily invest in their own futures or resilience. Rabobank hopes to change this by supporting these farmers, and agroforestry offers an answer. Agroforestry means healthier soil, better yields, and diversification of both nutrients and income. Planting trees, however, requires a relatively large investment. Through Acorn, Rabobank aims to facilitate such investments.
Through Acorn, Rabobank aims to store 150 megatons of CO2 per year, or the equivalent of 4 billion trees. To plant these trees 6.5 meters apart from each other, you need about 15 million hectares (ha) of land. Given that smallholder farmers average about 1 ha per farm, 15 million smallholder farmers are needed to reach this target. This is more or less equivalent to 25% of Kenya, or 22 million football pitches.
As long as a tree grows, the farmer will receive CRUs for the carbon that tree sequesters. Once a tree stops growing, the farmer will continue to harvest food from that tree (e.g. nuts, fruits) and benefit from its protection of crops (e.g. shade, wind cover). The switch to agroforestry and intercropping practices will outweigh any short-term benefits of cutting the trees down for firewood or returning to monocropping.
Through the Acorn program, Rabobank maintains a buffer pool of carbon removal units (CRUs) for replacement in case of certain calamities. This means that a percentage of the CRUs generated are not sold, but are added to the buffer pool. The buffer pool is intended to mitigate risks; If certain calamities occur (for example a fire), we can replace the CRU’s that are affected with CRU’s from the bufferpool – up to the point that the number of CRU’s in the buffer pool allows for this.
Agroforestry has many advantages for farmers, especially when working on a small scale: additional revenue, higher crop yields and resilience, better water management, richer soils, and more. Farmers who make the transition to agroforestry through Rabobank’s Acorn program are not likely to leave such benefits behind. Farmers who would not benefit from agroforestry would not qualify for the Acorn program.
Rabobank’s Acorn program is initially focused on helping corporations meet their emissions goals. At a later stage, there may be opportunities for consumers to purchase Acorn’s carbon removal units, as well.
Corporations that buy carbon removal units (CRUs) from Rabobank’s Acorn program strongly believe in what we are doing and are willing to pay for the high-quality and unique CRUs we provide. As the program develops, we may publish a ledger of the CRUs purchased, including buyers and quantities.
One of the reasons why Rabobank is developing the Acorn program is to offer a more traceable alternative to existing carbon credit schemes. Every year, we use satellite imagery to monitor the trees from the Acorn program and their growth. As the program develops, it is our goal to publish this information (e.g. satellite images, participating farmers) so that anyone can verify the origin and credibility of our CRUs.
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