Image shows blue sky with green high rise buildings shrouded in trees, like an urban forest

John Sterman on multisolving for effective offsets

In an op-ed published by Market Watch, John Sterman of MIT Sloan includes multisolving on his list of criteria that carbon offset programs must meet to effectively combat climate change

“Many offset programs are based on dubious assumptions,” Sterman argues. “To truly cut emissions, offsets must be AVID+: Additional, Verifiable, Immediate, Durable , and help meet other societal goals (the “plus”).”

Additional, meaning offsetting emissions that would not be reduced in another way. Verifiable, meaning accurately calculating the offset emissions. Immediate, meaning implementing the program now, rather than in the next decade. Durable, meaning ensuring that emission offsets hold up overtime and do not reenter the atmosphere.  

Multisolving is the plus, all the things that would be better in a world effectively combatting climate change.

As Sterman says, “[O]ffsets should multisolve. They should advance other worthy goals in addition to their climate benefits, such as job creation, poverty reduction, or improved health. Tree planting is commonly done by establishing monocultures of fast-growing species instead of mimicking the natural forests that spur recreation, hunting, fishing, and tourism or support traditional ways of life for Indigenous people.”

Read the full article here.


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That opened a new front of research at Climate Interactive: what else would improve around the world if countries truly transitioned away from fossil fuels? From improvements in air quality to energy security we documented many co-benefits of climate action, and incorporated some of them into Climate Interactive’s well known computer simulation, En-ROADS.

But, the multiple benefits of actions to protect the climate remain mostly theoretical without ways of overcoming the obstacles to multisolving. That’s why, from the beginning of our work we have collaborated with others to understand the bright spots of multisolving around the world and to pilot multisolving approaches. First in Milwaukee in partnership with the Milwuakee Metropolitan Sewerage District and then in Atlanta, with Partnership for Southern Equity, we began to see what was possible by bringing the different parts of a system together in pursuit of actions and investments that lifted up many goals at once.

From this action research, along with a series of case studies of multisolving projects, we began to see attitudes and approaches that are in common across a wide diversity of multisolving projects, a topic we wrote about in Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Then came 2020. Pandemic. Escalating climate change impacts. Dire warnings about biodiversity loss. And more and more folks connecting the dots between each of these issues and structural inequity. Invitations to write, speak, and teach about multisolving came fast and furious and with it the possibility that what we’ve learned from multisolving bright spots could help support leaders around the world to respond to crises with multisolving. That spark led to the launch of the Multisolving Institute and our mission of supporting leaders as they pursue multisolving approaches