Sunday, August 03, 2008

The future of carbon offsets

The carbon offset game is fraught with problems. A myriad of companies now promise to offset your personal emissions through activities like protecting forests, planting trees and investing in renewable energies. Even for the most responsible and earnest of companies, the emissions reductions are difficult to quantify or verify. And many of the offset schemes fail to prevent “downstream” emissions that counteract the offsetting activity. For example, if a well-intentioned company protects the right area of the right forest from logging to “prevent” the designated amount of carbon dioxide from being released to the atmosphere, but there is no equivalent change in pulp and paper use, a forest has to be logged elsewhere to meet demand.

Here's a possible solution: Rather than pay to have a company attempt to physically offset the emissions, Carbon Retirement lets you purchase and “retire” carbon credits from the European emissions trading network. By removing those carbon credits from the market, your purchase permanently lowers the total emissions cap in the trading system. This guarantees that companies subject to the trading system will reduce emissions by the designated amount (presuming emissions are properly measured and reported within the trading system). As more trading schemes emerge – Canada, the United States and Australia are all considered trading schemes – the "retirement" method could to revolutionize, and legitimize, the consumer offset game.

[Note: I have no connection to the company. I like the concept. If other similar companies may exist, you are welcome to add links in the comments.]


arachesostufo said...

un saluto da scorzè, Venezia Italy

Anonymous said...

Offsets won't last. Carbon retirement is much clearer. The US has a CO2 permit retirement site now, called Carbon Purging, at