Understanding Carbon Credits

Carbon offset schemes permit businesses and individuals to participate in projects that benefit the environment across the globe to offset their carbon footprints. These projects typically are located in countries in the developing world and typically are created to reduce the emission of carbon in the future. It could involve deploying green energy technology or buying and then removing carbon credits under an emission trading system. Others schemes involve absorption of CO2 directly from the atmosphere through plantation of trees. Find out more on the Carbon.Credit website.

Certain individuals and organizations offset their carbon footprint completely, while others seek to reduce the effect of a specific thing, like an airplane. To achieve this, the traveler or businessperson browses an offset site or online tool to estimate the emissions from the trip, and pay this offset firm to lower emissions from other locations by the same amount , which makes the trip “carbon zero”.

Offset plans vary in terms of price, but a average cost would be about £8 or $12 for each tonne CO2 offset. For this amount an average British family could pay £45 to offset the cost of a year’s electric and gas usage for a return flight to London towards San Francisco would clock in at about £20 for a ticket.

In recent years, many items come that include carbon neutrality in the cost. They range from books on environmental issues, to high-emission automobiles (new Land Rovers include offsets to offset the cost of producing the vehicle and for the initial 45,000 miles of usage).

In the last decade, carbon offset has been gaining popularity but is also becoming – due to many reasons – becoming more controversial.

Does the whole idea of offsetting a fraud?

The majority of critique of offsets is based on plantation of trees. Certain of these issues are true however the reality is that many of the most well-known carbon offset schemes have changed from planting trees to renewable energy initiatives ranging from the distribution of efficient cooking stoves and collecting methane gas at landfill sites. These kinds of projects are intended to provide faster and lasting savings than planting trees and, as an added benefit they provide social benefits. Effective cooking stoves can, for example, aid poor families in saving energy and improve the air quality in their homes which is a huge advantage in many countries that are in the process of developing.

However, even in the case of energy-based schemes many claim that offsets are not beneficial and can even be counterproductive 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 as a reward for financial contributions for the parish. In the same way that indulgences allow the wealthy to be able to relax about their bad behavior without actually changing their habits carbon offsets let people to “buy complacency as well as self-satisfaction, political apathy, and complacency” Monbiot said. “Our guilt-ridden consciences are soothed and we continue to fill our SUVs with gas and drive around the globe without having any concern for our impact on the environment … It’s as if you push food around your plate in order to give the illusion that you’ve consumed it.”

An equivalent, if not more funny idea is suggested by the website spoof CheatNeutral.com which plays on carbon neutrality, offering the same service for infidelity. “When it is discovered that you have cheated on your partner , you can add hurt, jealousy and heartbreak within the relationship,” the website explains. “CheatNeutral helps you to stop your cheating by allowing an individual to remain honest and not cheat. It neutralizes the emotional pain and sadness and will leave you with a clean conscience.”

CheatNeutral could be humorous, but the cheating and indulgence analogies have been accepted as factual arguments for carbon offset. But are the analogies standing up? According to David Roberts, staff writer at Grist. “If there were truly something as sin and there was only a finite amount of it throughout the world that it was only the total quantity of sin that mattered instead of the contribution of any one individual and indulgences reduced the amount of sin in the world and vice versa, then indulgences would be a perfect option,” Roberts has written and echoes similar assertions that have been made by other people who are supportive of offset. “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 as a means of avoiding altering their environmentally unfriendly ways? It’s also a lie according to offset plans themselves who claim that the majority of their clients are making efforts to cut down on their carbon emissions directly. A report by British’s National Consumer Council and Sustainable Development Commission was in agreement with this view: “a positive approach to offsets could resonate with the public that goes beyond offsets for CO2 and help raise awareness about the need for additional measures.”

In the end, the decision of whether the idea of offset is a valid idea should be left on the person. If you offset in order to alleviate anxiety and feel more comfortable about activities that are high carbon like flying, that isn’t a good thing. If you offset in the interest of reducing your carbon footprint, or as a way 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 projects provide other advantages, such as reducing poverty in the poorer regions of the world.

Do offset projects really deliver the carbon-saving benefits they promise?

The guilt-inducing arguments aside, the main concern for those who do want to offset their carbon footprint is whether the program you’re investing in will actually deliver the carbon reductions promised. This is not limited to the efficacy of the scheme in taking in CO2 or avoiding the emission of future ones. It is essential to be effective but it is not enough. Also, you must be certain that carbon savings are not in addition to any savings that might have occurred in the first place.

Consider one offset scheme that distributes lightbulbs with low energy in a developing nation and reduces energy use in the years ahead. The carbon savings could only be considered to be extra if the project’s management could prove that for the period during which the carbon savings generated by the new lightbulbs was being taken into account, the recipients would not have gotten low-energy bulbs through another method.

The issue is that it’s nearly impossible to prove that there is an additionality in absolute certainty since there is no way to know about what’s going to happen in the near future or what might happen if the plan was not in existence. In this case, in the event of the lightsbulb project the local government could begin distribution of low-energy bulbs in order to lessen the burden on the power grid. If this happened then the bulbs supplied by offset companies will cease to be an additional source as the savings in energy would have occurred regardless of whether the offset project were not in place.

Due to the difficulties of ensuring additionality, a lot of offset providers promise their emissions savings. So, if emissions savings aren’t realized or turn out as “non-additional” the company assures that they will make up the difference through a different project.

The market for offsets is growing certain offset businesses are able to finance projects on a speculative basis They fund an offset project , and sell the carbon savings after the cuts have been completed. This eliminates the problem of forecasting 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 guidelines provide some comfort however, do they have any significance in the real world? Without visiting the offset facilities ourselves What can we do to be certain that the offset projects work in the way they ought to?

To answer these concerns, the voluntary offset market has created a variety of standards that look somewhat similar to the certification systems to ensure fair trade or organic food products. They are those of the Voluntary Gold Standard (VGS) and the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS). The offsets certified by VGS are audited in accordance with the guidelines set out by the Kyoto protocol, and must provide social benefits to communities in the local area. The VCS will, in turn, strive to be as robust however, it isn’t as costly or complicated to establish which allows for a wider selection of small-scale and innovative projects.

Offsets that meet these standards give an extra level of credibility, but this does not mean they are watertight. Heather Rogers, author of Green Gone Wrong, visited several offset programs in India and observed 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.

Although offset programs may function as promised, some environmentalists say they’re not a good idea. If we want to combat the issue of climate change, they say that the initiatives being carried out by offset firms should be taking place in the first place, backed by the governments of the world as individuals and businesses cut their carbon footprints directly. Only by doing all that is possible to achieve reductions across the board and not polluting one area and offset in another – can the world stand a decent chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change, the critics say.

However there are carbon neutrality advocates who advocate compensating carbon-intensive actions like flights of two or three times, or even 10 times more. This, they claim, permits individuals to not only prevent their carbon footprint from increasing however, it actually makes it decrease.

The cost of offset

Many people are puzzled about the low price in carbon offsets. If it’s bad for the environment to fly, will just a few pounds suffice to offset the negative impact? It’s true that today there are many kinds of methods to cut emissions for a low cost. For instance the lightbulb that is low-energy that costs just PS1 or less, can in the span of six years reduce 250kg of CO2 which is equivalent to the cost of a single flight. This isn’t to say that offsetting is always a good idea or that the use of a low-energy lightbulb will compensate for flying. The fact is that there are a myriad of low-cost ways to cut emissions. If there were enough people who started offsetting, or if governments began to act seriously in tackling global warming, the cost of offsets will gradually increase in the long run, as the fruit with the lowest price of emission savings – – the most cost-effective and easiest “quick wins” could be consumed.

Another common source of confusion over offset costs is the fact that different offset companies offer different rates for the exact same process. There are two causes to this. There are a variety of 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. Furthermore, various kinds of offset projects will undoubtedly be priced differently, particularly because projects are selected not only for their CO2 effects but also to benefit society in general.