How is the carbon credit system supposed to work anyway? The basic idea is that we all agree to emit X amount of carbon into the atmosphere every year. You, being a model citizen, live a clean life and emit very little carbon into the atmosphere. Megaco (a major global polluter) comes to you and says, "We don't want to change our ways – if we pay you money, can we disgorge your carbon for you?” it is really all just smoke and mirrors, this carbon credit thing, and it deserves to be viewed with a healthy dose of scepticism. Except here in south Africa where one enterprising specialist 4x4 insurer (in conjunction with this magazine) is putting an entirely new take on carbon credits.
Regular readers will be familiar with Raymond du Plessis of "Where in the world is Raymond?” fame. An insurance veteran with more than three decades of experience under his belt, Raymond has always had a deep love of the southern African bush. He has led expeditions, cooked with Kingsley Holgate and has knowledge of our regions flora and fauna that would be the envy of any bush tracker. it has been with growing unease that he has noticed alarming changes to the environment, particularly over the last two or three years. Appropriately, we were discussing the problem around a camp fire when the idea of a partial solution came up. There is a unique tree that grows mainly in the Klein Karoo, Southern Cape and Eastern province of south Africa. The Portulacaria afra or spekboom (also called elephants’ food) is an amazing tree. it has the
ability to store moisture in both its leaf and stem system, allowing it to survive in the some pretty hostile environments. The spekboom has the ability to turn its moisture retention systems on and off at will, allowing it to survive in hostile semi-desert climates like the Klein Karoo, where farmers are lucky if they receive 250 mm per year. The spekboom also thrives in areas of much higher rainfall (we have one doing very well in our garden in the Western Cape where it is drenched in winter rain and faces the brunt of the southeaster).
The spekboom has another major attribute. Unlike empty carbon credit trading scams, this tree, which grows to a height of two and a half metres, actually can capture carbon – an extraordinary amount of carbon – as much as 4.2 tons per hectare annually
And that is where the idea was born to physically plant a new spekboom tree for every vehicle insured by raymond’s Tuffstuff insurance company. Every Tuffstuff client will receive the GPs co ordinates of where their tree has been planted in the drought-ravaged klein karoo. The Tuffstuff carbon initiative has a further advantage in the area, where controlled planting is helping to combat soil erosion caused by more frequent flooding in the area, a consequence of changing weather patterns.