Pin Me

Are Carbon Offsets Damaging the Environment?

written by: •edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 5/6/2010

We are used to seeing major companies promote their environmental awareness through the purchasing of carbon offsets. Though many companies tout offsets as an important way to prevent climate change, are they actually helping or contributing to the problem?

  • slide 1 of 2

    Can Carbon Offsetting Actually Hurt the Environment?

    A new report by the Transitional Institute, a Dutch pressure group revealed that current carbon offset programs may actually by damaging the environment rather than helping to prevent climate change. The report entitled “The Carbon Neutral Trade Myth," claims that most existing carbon offset schemes create money-making opportunities for “self-styled eco-capitalists" rather than actually reducing emissions.

    The report compares today’s carbon offset incentives to the popularity of mercantilism which swept Western Europe in the Middle Ages, allowing goods purchased in one region to be sold at a higher rate in areas where they are scarce. The report argues that carbon offsets are a modern-day indulgence that allows companies like the Carbon Neutral Company and Climate Savers to create projects which supposedly reduce carbon emissions, while in reality the emissions reductions can then be profitably sold back to companies who would rather pay than take responsible steps to reduce their carbon output. The cause of these problems, according to the report, is lack of regulation of offset procedures.

  • slide 2 of 2

    How Many Carbon Offset Schemes Work

    · A company will post a calculator on their website to show the amount of emissions produced by certain products

    · The customer is given the option of choosing the greenest option based on the company’s pledge to neutralize the quantity of emissions through carbon offsets – one example is by planting trees to absorb carbon emissions

    · The cost of products include a percentage of the project cost and amount of emissions to be neutralized

    · Corporations can opt to pay towards the neutralization of emissions generated by their manufacturing processes or services

    · Companies can then market their products and services based on these environment-friendly credentials.

    The report points out a number of flaws in the current carbon offsetting schemes. One of the most revealing is that though the initial attraction of offset schemes was based on the notion that planting trees is eco-friendly, in reality it is not possible to equate the tree’s absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide with the carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels. It also highlights the problems with the storage of carbon in plantation, which is only a temporary solution.

    The report does offer some positive changes that could be made to make carbon offset schemes more effective, including:

    · Making cuts in the disproportionate share of emissions throughout the Western world.

    · Promoting energy conservation throughout companies’ daily manufacturing processes and services provided.

    · Investing in renewable resources in developing countries

    · Reducing the over-all impact on the environment rather than trying to compensate for it