Wednesday, September 05, 2007

To offset or not to offset

There is lots of furor over the ethics and the efficacy of carbon offsets. Personally, I doubt the validity of many of the offsets; it is a mystery how there can be be so many opportunities to purchase carbon offsets today, yet at the same time, few major programs that are substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions. When asked, I sometimes suggest people look at purchasing offsets (from certain organizations not these lunatics) like donating money to a worthwhile cause.

Bad advice? Gar Lipow at Gristmill picked up on this story in the Times of London that makes it seem as though offset business is on a slippery slope to slavery :

When David Cameron flew to India to open a JCB factory for a party donor, green-thinking supporters could rest assured that his visit would be carbon neutral. “We are offsetting all our emissions through Climate Care,” the Tory leader wrote on his blog. “As well as planting trees, they also invest in renewable energy projects in the developing world.”

Somewhere in the Indian countryside, a farmer is about to repay Mr Cameron’s debt to the planet. Climate Care’s latest enterprise is to provide “treadle pumps” to poor rural families so they can get water on to their land without using diesel power. The pumps are worked by stepping on pedals. If a peasant treads for two hours a day, it will take at least three years to offset the CO2 from Mr Cameron’s return flight to India.

If nothing else, that paragraph captures the vast income inequality. Let the angst and arguing begin.

2 comments:

Gideon Greenspan said...

Hi Simon,

I just picked up your post and thought it would be timely to mention the launch of Carbon Catalog, a new independent directory of carbon offsets.

http://www.carboncatalog.org/

Carbon Catalog lists over 30 voluntary carbon offset providers and 120 of their projects around the world. Every project and provider is mapped and categorized for easy access.

Our aim at Carbon Catalog is to help people decide whether to purchase carbon offsets, and if so, from which projects and providers. We have no relationship with any of the projects or providers listed.

Karen said...

Transparency in the offset market is something that Gideon Greeenspan and Our Carbon Nation Ltd obviously felt the need to address. Our Carbon Nation Ltd are launching a new Global Carbon Offsetting Directory Service for consumers. They highlight issues such as price per tonne, percentage of donation spent on admin, and most importantly how providers verify that the emission reductions they are claiming are actually taking place. http://www.ourcarbonnation.com launches on 17th September 2007.