We already know that carbon offsets are receiving some very close scrutiny, and a certain amount of scepticism. We've seen protesters in the UK occupying an offset company's headquarters, and this author himself even made the headlines in the New York Times when they examined offsets, and were not 100% convinced of their effectiveness. Now it seems that the UK documentary program Dispatches recently aired a program that was deeply critical of carbon offsets as a concept, and offset providers are unsurprisingly not best pleased with the coverage they received. Unfortunately we missed the show, though we did find a synopsis here, so we can't talk first-hand about the program's accuracy. UK offset provider Climate Care has, however, put out a statement seeking to give a counter argument, and it does provide an interesting defence against the usual criticisms of the industry. Click on the link above to read the company's full reasoning, but briefly summarised, Climate Care's defence runs as follows:
• Carbon offsetting is not an excuse to pollute
• There are standards for carbon offset projects
• If a particular offset project makes lower than expected savings this does not necessarily affect the quality of the offsets
• There is indeed disagreement over some carbon calculations, particularly for aviation, but this is no reason for inactionThe statement goes on to argue that carbon offsets are providing vital investment in the clean technologies that we need to drive down carbon emissions:
"The major climate campaign 'I Count' is calling for the UK to "Help the poorest countries get access to clean energy, help them cut out poverty ". Climate Care is investing millions in projects that are already doing precisely this. Unjustifiably negative and unbalanced press coverage of carbon offsets threatens an essential source of funds that is starting to make a real difference in the fight against climate change and poverty. Those who offset their carbon should be proud of the part they are playing to help green our economy."
While we can't judge directly whether the Dispatches program was unbalanced or not [we would of course welcome readers' opinions who saw it], we are nevertheless pleased to see a robust discussion of offsets going on in the public domain. As we have often argued before, offsets can only play a role in a more sustainable future if they are transparent, effective, regulated, and part of a wider sustainability strategy. ::Climate Care::via site visit::