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Does carbon offsetting work?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

When Tony Blair says that he will be 'offsetting' his family's recent Florida trip, he is referring to a system in which an individual pays a [usually for-profit] company to zero out all or part of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of a party, by reducing the emissions—or increasing the CO2 absorption—of another party. While some applaud the offsetting industry others see it as creating the false impression that some can buy their way out of a carbon footprint. Today, the The Independent (UK) explores whether carbon offsetting really helps in the fight against climate change. The article is worth a read, especially if you're unfamiliar with offsetting. Here are The Independent's conclusions in brief:

Yes...

* The offsetting industry is funding diverse projects in the developing world that make real reductions in greenhouse gases

* Offsetting is a "gateway" to encourage consumers to take fewer or shorter flights, and raising their awareness of carbon emissions

* The aviation and travel industries are increasingly ready to offer offsets to passengers and engage in the climate change debate

No...

* Offsetting does not cut total CO2 emissions and is a distraction from deciding how to reduce CO2 at the inter-governmental level

* Forestry projects do not offer guaranteed carbon sequestration as trees eventually die and release their carbon as they decay

* Offsetting leads air travellers to forget their flights are still emitting CO2, rather than considering not flying at all

Key Issues: