Through the Jungle of Non-Profit Carbon Offset Providers


Wildly varying prices, questions of accountability, and the carbon neutral myth, TreeHuggers everywhere we can imagine, are trying to make sense of the carbon offset business.

It might not be something you think about before you go to bed, but economists surely do as the carbon offset business — voluntary and mandatory — could mean millions and billions of dollars in revenue.

Over at Carbon Catalog, this TreeHugger's taken out her trusty rusty binoculars and trekked through the carbon offset jungle of not-for-profit providers. We met with five of the world's best and asked them lots of questions about their non-profit designation.

Does being a non-profit make an organization more accountable? Who can claim tax breaks by buying offsets? Will non-profits be competitive in the long-run? UK's PURE, Canada's Offsetters, America's CarbonFund, Switzerland's myclimate and France's Action Carbone answered some questions over the last couple of months and this week's Carbon Catablog post offers some of the more salient points raised. In the coming months, the site will be talking to a series of for-profit offsetters.

Although Canada's Offsetters is a non-profit, explains its founder James Tansey, the "limitations of a not for profit are significant," he says. "It is difficult to secure funds to invest in growth and it is very hard to invest strategically in longer term offset projects."

For this reason, Offsetters is planning to morph into a hybrid organization, offering both non-profit and for-profit models. "We also think that it would be inappropriate for offsets to be charitable donations as they should be a normal business expense."

In Switzerland, myclimate offers tax deductions to Swiss nationals, but the non-profit is also trying to get non-profit status in Germany and the UK so that other Europeans can enjoy the tax breaks if they offset with myclimate.

Unlike Tansey from Offsetters, myclimate's Kathrin Dellantonio seems surprised to hear that for profit providers may be more competitive in the long-run. She says, "I am hearing this criticism for the first time. As we don't have any profit interests, we guarantee that the largest percentage of the money goes to the projects. This is always one of the most important criteria for companies and individuals to offset with us!"

In France, Action Carbone's Ruy Korscha Anaya de la Rosa doesn't like to think in terms of competition (non-profit versus for profit providers). He says, "All the carbon market participants are fighting for the same cause: to cool down our planet. We must not forget that we are dealing with global warming in here!"

Russel Simon from CarbonFund believes being a non profit, allows his organization to focus on it's sole mission:

"Being a nonprofit allows us to focus solely on our mission: reduce greenhouse gasses, fighting global warming, hastening the transition to a clean energy future.

"As I said before, was founded as a nonprofit to provide a public good, and yes, we believe climate change is an ethical issue."

::Carbon Catalog

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