A complete guide to carbon offsetting
Carbon offset schemes permit businesses and individuals to participate in projects that benefit the environment throughout the globe in order to reduce their carbon footprints. These projects typically are located in developing countries , and typically are created to reduce the emission of carbon in the future. This could mean deploying green energy technology or buying carbon credits obtained from the emissions trading program. Others schemes involve absorption of CO2 directly from the atmosphere through plantation of trees.
Certain people and companies offset their entire carbon footprint , while others attempt to offset the effects of a particular event, like taking flights. In order to do this, a holidaymaker or businessperson goes to an offset website or online tool to determine the carbon emissions of the trip, and compensates this offset firm to cut down emissions in other countries in the same amount, so that the trip is “carbon zero”.
Offset schemes differ widely in the amount they costs, however a average cost would be about 12 dollars for each tonne of CO2 offset. At this rate the typical British family could shell out around PS45 to offset one year’s worth of electric and gas usage and a return trip to London towards San Francisco would clock in around £20 for a ticket.
Click here to trade carbon credits.
In recent years, many items come with carbon neutrality in the cost. They range from books on environmental issues, to high-emission automobiles (new Land Rovers include offsets for the manufacturing of the vehicle and for the initial 45,000 miles of usage).
In the last decade, carbon offset has gained popularity however, it is also becoming – due to various reasons – more controversial.
Is the entire concept of offsets a scam?
In general, the critique of offsets is based on tree planting. Certain of these issues are true however, the majority of the most popular carbon offset schemes have changed from planting trees to renewable energy initiatives ranging from distributing cooking stoves that are efficient and the capture of methane gas from landfill sites. Projects based on energy like these are designed to generate faster and longer-lasting savings than planting trees and, in addition they provide social benefits. Effective cooking stoves for instance, could aid poor families in saving energy and improve the air quality in their homes This is a significant benefit for many countries in the developing world.
In the event of energy-based schemes many claim that offsets are not beneficial and even harmful in the combat for climate protection. For instance, the writer George Monbiot famously compared carbon offsets to the Catholic tradition of offering indulgences that provided absolution from sins as well as a shorter time in purgatory in exchange in exchange for financial contributions towards the Church. In the same way that indulgences allow wealthy people to be more comfortable with their bad behavior without actually changing their behavior carbon offsets let people to “buy complacency or self-satisfaction and political apathy” Monbiot stated. “Our consciences have been soothed by guilt by the offsets, we continue filling up our SUVs and travel across the globe with not any concern for our environmental impact … this is similar to pushing food around your plate, giving the illusion that you’ve consumed it.”
A similar , but more funny argument is offered by the website spoof CheatNeutral.com which plays on carbon neutrality, offering the same service to those who are infidelity. “When someone cheats on their spouse, you can add hurt, jealousy and heartbreak within the relationship,” the website explains. “CheatNeutral neutralizes the cheating of others by paying an individual to remain honest and not cheat. This helps to alleviate the emotional pain and sadness and will leave you with a clean conscience.”
CheatNeutral could be humorous, however the indulgence and cheating analogies have all been accepted as factual arguments for carbon offset. However, do these comparisons hold up? According to David Roberts, staff writer at Grist. “If there were truly an thing as sin and there was a limited amount of it around the globe that it was only the total quantity of sin that mattered more than the individual’s contribution and indulgences actually reduced the amount of sin in the world in the first place, then indulgences could be a very sensible concept,” Roberts has written in a similar way to claims that have been made by other people who are supportive of the idea of offsetting. “The contrast is a weak, transparent attack, and I wonder why the critics depend so much on the argument.”
What about the assertion that offset schemes are used by people to keep from switching to environmentally-friendly practices? This is also false according to offset programs themselves who claim that the majority of their customers are making efforts to cut down on their carbon footprint directly. A report by British’s National Consumer Council and Sustainable Development Commission supported this viewpoint: “a positive approach to offsets could be a positive one that resonates with people far beyond CO2 offset and could help increase awareness of the need to take other steps.”
In the end, the decision of whether or not the idea of offsetting is a valid idea should be left on the person. If you offset in order to alleviate anxiety and feel less guilty about doing high-carbon things like flying, it isn’t a good thing. If you offset as a way of reducing your carbon footprint, or to motivate yourself to live a more sustainable lifestyle (after all, the less carbon emissions you create more carbon dioxide, the less it’ll cost to be carbon-neutral) this isn’t good – particularly if the offset programs provide additional benefits , like reducing poverty in the poorer regions of the world.
Do offset schemes actually provide the carbon savings they claim to bring?
The guilt-inducing arguments aside, the main concern for anyone who wants to offset carbon emissions is whether the plan you’re investing in is actually achieving the carbon reductions promised. It comes down to the efficiency of the scheme in absorption of CO2 but also at preventing the emission of future ones. It is essential to be effective but it is not enough. Also, you must be certain that the carbon savings are in addition to any savings that might be happening anyway.
Let’s take the case of one offset scheme that distributes lightbulbs with low energy in a developing nation which will reduce energy consumption in the next few years. The carbon savings could only be categorized as an added if project managers can prove that during the time when the carbon savings from the new lightbulbs were considered, the beneficiaries would not have gotten low-energy bulbs through any other method.
It’s nearly impossible to prove any degree of additionality since there is no way to know that what happens in the near future or what might be the outcome if the idea did not exist. For example, in this case, in the event of the lightsbulb initiative, the local government could begin distribution of low-energy bulbs in order to lessen the burden on the power grid. If this happens and the bulbs were supplied by offset companies will cease to be an additional source as the savings in energy could have been realized regardless of whether the offset project was never implemented.
In part due to the challenge in ensuring additionality offset providers promise their emissions savings. So, if emissions savings aren’t realized or turn out as “non-additional” the service provider guarantees to cover the difference through a different project.
As the market for offsets expands certain offset firms are able to finance projects in speculative ways by funding an offset project , and sell the carbon savings after the cuts are actually achieved. This eliminates the problem in predicting the future and also eliminates the notion of claiming that carbon cuts taken sometime into the future is more valuable than one that was made today.
These types of assurances and policies offer some assurances but do they really have any significance in the real world? Without visiting the offset projects yourself How can people be sure that they are operating in the way they ought to?
To answer these concerns, the voluntary offset market has come up with a range of standards that are similar to the certification systems for organic or fair trade food items. They comprise VGS and the Voluntary Gold Standard (VGS) and the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS). The offsets certified by VGS are audited following the standards stipulated by the Kyoto protocol. They must also provide social benefits to communities in the local area. The VCS will, in turn, strive to be as robust but isn’t as costly or complex to set up and thus allowing for a greater selection of small-scale and innovative projects.
Offsets that comply with these standards provide additional credibility, however that does not mean they are watertight. Heather Rogers, author of Green Gone Wrong, visited various offset programs in India and discovered all sorts of inconsistencies. A biomass power plant that was certified by VGS did not allow her to visit even though the workers there raised several issues like trees being cut down and then sold for the facility, originally designed to be powered by agricultural waste.
Even if offset initiatives perform as they claim, environmentalists say they’re not a good idea. If we want to combat the climate crisis, they claim that the initiatives being carried out by offset companies ought to be taking place in the first place, backed by governments across the globe as individuals and businesses cut their carbon footprints directly. Only by doing all that is possible to reduce carbon emissions everywhere and not polluting one location and offset it in another – can the world stand a better chance of avoiding a catastrophic climate change, as people who criticize offsets argue.
However there are carbon neutrality advocates who advocate offsets for carbon-intensive activities like flights of two or three times, or even 10 times more. They argue that this permits individuals to not only reduce their carbon footprint from rising but to actually make it lower.
The cost of offset
Many people are puzzled about the low price for carbon offsets. If it’s harmful to the environment to fly, will only a couple of pounds really suffice to offset the negative impact? It’s true that currently there are a myriad of methods to cut emissions at a very low cost. For instance the lightbulb that is low-energy that costs just PS1 or so, could over the course of six years reduce 250kg of CO2 equivalent to the cost of a single flight. This isn’t to say that offsetting is always a good idea or that installing a lightbulb with low energy can compensate for the cost of flying. It’s just that there are a myriad of low-cost ways to cut emissions. If sufficient people began offsetting or if governments took action seriously in tackling global warming, then the cost of offsets would increase gradually in the long run, as the fruit with the lowest price of savings on emissions which are the simplest and most affordable “quick wins” could be consumed.
Another source of confusion regarding offset costs is the fact that different offset companies offer different rates for the exact same process. There are two explanations to this. First, there are many ways to estimate the exact effect on climate change that specific types of activities – like flying, which influences the global temperature in a variety of ways. Additionally, various types of offset projects will undoubtedly be priced differently, particularly because projects are selected not only for their carbon dioxide impacts, but also to benefit society in general.
Carbon offset schemes permit businesses and individuals to participate in projects that benefit the environment throughout the globe in order to reduce their carbon footprints. These projects typically are located in developing countries , and typically are created to reduce the emission of carbon in the future. This could mean deploying green energy technology or…