Let’s be honest, our eyes normally glaze over before you can finish saying “Carbon Offsetting.” But carbon offsetting is a big business that has sparked a lot of debate, and for good reason.
What is Carbon Offsetting?
It’s much more simple than the term lets on. It is essentially a two step process for business’ to reduce their contribution to climate change.
- Figure out how much CO2 your project produces
- Fund a different project that reduces carbon emissions by the same amount
There you have it. Carbon emissions neutralised.
As much as we would love for that to be climate change’s silver bullet, unfortunately, carbon is not quite that straightforward.
Carbon Offsetting is unlikely to live up to its neutralising promises as calculating CO2 production can be highly inaccurate and overlooks other environmental exploitation that happens in the same processes. How can you really put a number on that? This is especially questionable as offsetting corporations such as Gold Standard allow programme developers to collect their own data on carbon emissions, no accountability.
Only around 30% of the funding ever makes it to the carbon offsetting project. These projects normally consist of distant, cheap, quick fix initiatives such as supplying low energy lightbulbs to impoverished communities or planting trees. These projects aren’t necessarily beneficial to the communities they work in as they stop solutions and innovations for the same issues developing from the community itself and create a reliance on aid.
Social relations are often much more complex than these projects acknowledge and seemingly innocent projects such as planting trees have seen communities forcibly removed from their land.
This idea of paying someone else to “un-do” your pollution is a massive shift in responsibility away from the companies themselves. It maintains business being purely motivated by money, instead of valuing environmental protection.
There are plenty of alternatives that create actual change. For one, prioritising reducing your carbon emissions in the first place. This is much more efficient than polluting the environment and later scrambling to reverse it.
Additionally, the concept of Carbon Insetting offers a middle ground for companies who seemingly can’t reduce their carbon footprint. This is where the funding to reduce carbon emissions goes to a project within your supply chain rather than “out of sight out of mind.” This creates a more responsible and intelligent response to tackling unavoidable carbon emissions.
Although carbon offsetting was a step in the right direction, we should continue to push for real alternatives and change that create long-term positive impacts for people and the environment.
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