Interview with Ab Kasmi from South Pole

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

South Pole is a carbon finance consultancy, originally starting in Zurich, Switzerland but now with 18 offices across the world. South Pole's activities include project and technology finance, data and advisory on sustainability risks and opportunities, as well as the development of environmental commodities such as carbon and renewable energy credits.

Ab Kasmi is Head of Carbon and Renewables, Partnerships based at South Pole's Amsterdam office. He is well versed in green certificate products, also having previously worked in the Environmental Markets division in Statkraft. 

Ab and his team at South Pole recently offered their thoughts on our questions below.

Do GOs feature in the schemes you offer? If so, how prominent are they and which GOs are most utilised?

South Pole offers the full range of products to satisfy the three scopes, this includes GOs. We offer carbon credits for scope 1 and 3 and various renewable energy certificates for scope 2. Our team has been active in the GO world since the early days; our knowledge of the market allows us to serve GOs from all over Europe, next to IRECs and US RECs outside of Europe. The type of demand is very client driven. As our main customers are larger end consumers, their needs are broad. Some clients prefer a low-cost option, while others would like to procure locally and close to their consumption, from specific technologies or facilities that have been commissioned after a certain date. We guide clients through this and show them the various options, supporting them to make a final decision based on preference of type and location, budget and pragmatism.

Your business revolves around carbon neutrality - what are the most popular methods of achieving this?

We offer our clients a full service to become truly pioneering climate leaders.  On a very high level this revolves around 3 categories: measure, reduce and offset the rest. We first help the client to understand and measure their carbon footprint.  Then using this information, we look for ways they can reduce their emissions.  Not everything can be done in one go, we help clients develop a strategy for the short, medium and long terms - sometimes patience pays off! Depending on the industry, it could be that encouraging employees to take the train instead of flying or implementing energy efficiency measures considerably reduces their carbon footprint.  For others, longer-term solutions such as procuring renewable energy across their operations are required. The final step we advise is for clients to take immediate action in the short window we have left to mitigate climate crisis and offset their unavoidable emissions. This can be done by investing in one of our high-quality emissions reduction projects, developed by South Pole, to invest in.

Are customers focused on the details of their projects with you? Or are they content to leave it all to South Pole?

It varies, which is why we offer a service fully tailored to our clients’ needs. Some like to know in detail about the projects they are supporting, it helps to engage their stakeholders in their climate action.  Others leave it to us; they know we cherry pick only the best projects that adhere to international standards and deliver the highest impacts.  In any case, we provide detailed information about the emissions they reduce, and the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) that are supported. We also provide pictures and videos of the project and have organised for clients to visit the projects themselves!

South Pole has achieved a number of impressive results world-wide. Are there any achievements or projects that stand out for you personally?

At South Pole we often think in the big numbers and impacts that are required to tackle climate change on a global scale: together with over 1000 clients we reduced million tonnes of CO2e in 2019. Ambition has been ramping up, with governments slow to act, the private sector is making significant leaps in expanding renewable energy.  With new jurisdictions becoming   

Having mentioned large scale impacts, which of course are important, we are incredibly focused on the small and very local impacts of our projects.  For me hearing feedback from a beneficiary who is being directly and positively impacted by one of our projects reminds me why we are doing what we do! I am particularly excited about benefits projects bring beyond emissions reductions: the Vaupés projects for example protects over 760,000 hectares of the Amazon rainforest in Colombia, which is impressive in itself.  But the real magic of the project is its work to strengthen indigenous identity in the region.

What can we look forward to from South Pole in 2020?

With climate change exploding onto the mainstream agenda, South Pole has had a very busy start to the new year.  We are excited to work with companies who have a genuine long-term vision.  It’s easy to make commitments and ambitious targets, but it’s another thing to achieve them.  So, that's where we come in. Since 2006 we have been developing solutions, staying at the cutting edge of research stand understanding environmental markets inside out so our clients reach their goals.

Our services and projects are evolving each day; where we are seeing some of the most impressive results is in renewable energy.  Renewable energy expansion is multi-faceted, companies clearly see a cost advantage but for local communities it can be truly transformative.  For example, we are working with Energy Peace Partners (EPPs) to deliver Peace-RECs (P-RECs): these are I-RECs with an additional label from EPP to certify the social co-benefits of the project.  P-RECs focus on channelling renewable energy investment into fragile states and regions, to ensure that the communities who are too often overlooked, are benefitting from the low-carbon transition.  One of EPP’s first projects was connecting businesses and families in Goma, DRC to affordable clean power through decentralised mini-grids.  As one of the largest mini-grids in sub-Saharan Africa, the system reduces emissions, addresses barriers to electrification, drives sustainable development, and of course offers companies an opportunity to achieve their renewable energy and carbon reduction goals in the region. You can find out more about them on our blog