Is Carbon Offsetting Worth It?

Is Carbon Offsetting Worth It?
Credit: Reto Guntli


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Carbon offset schemes allow us to invest in environmental projects around the world to balance out our carbon footprints. You can offset the entire carbon footprint of your life, or just to limit the impact of a one-off activity such as taking a flight.

If we agree that climate change is the single biggest environmental threat, then we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as our first priority. As Duncan Clark points out in his book The Rough Guide to Green Living, there are all kinds of ways to reduce emissions very inexpensively. ‘After all, a single low-energy lightbulb, available for just £1 or so, can over the space of six years save 250kg of CO2 – equivalent to a short flight’.

After this, however, many experts agree that it’s still worth offsetting what you can’t reduce as it will ‘do good’ elsewhere. Professor of Sustainable Tourism at Griffith University in Australia Professor Susanne Becken says: ‘Carbon offsetting might be a band aid, but it is better than not doing anything.’

To offset your emissions as a traveller, you can go to an offset website, use the online tools to calculate the emissions of your trip, and then pay the offset company to reduce emissions elsewhere in the world by the same amount – so making your flight ‘carbon neutral’.

Most of the best-known offset schemes you can invest in relate to clean-energy projects that avoid emissions, reforestration that neutralise carbon and forest protection that avoids future emissions from deforestation. To combat climate change, we need to support all three types of activities.

Without actually visiting such projects ourselves, how can we be sure that they are bona fide? There are voluntary certification standards for carbon offset schemes, so it’s to buy and invest in projects from reputable and certified sources. Unhelpfully, there is no central resource yet for these, but Dr. Susanne Becken recommends credibly certified companies – South Pole, Atmosfair, MyClimate and CarbonNZero.

South Pole is a strategic partner of NOW and they power the NOW OFFSET CARBON tool to be launched in mid 2019. South Pole is headquartered in Switzerland with 18 offices worldwide and a  team of over 250 social entrepreneurs that are developing innovative solutions tailored to the needs of organisations in all sectors.

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