Offset your unavoidable emissions

We all have a “carbon footprint” – all of us contribute to climate change through our daily activities. As explained in our Climate Change section the highest priority is to lower our footprint and reduce our impact on climate change.

However, there are certain impacts which are unavoidable, for example essential car journeys and flights. Carbon offsets are an innovative way of allowing you to counteract the impact your actions have on increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

When you buy a carbon offset you are investing in a project that reduces emissions, for example by planting trees (which absorb carbon dioxide) or building new renewable energy facilities (which replace use of fossil fuels). Projects have to be verified by experts and must be “additional” – which means they wouldn’t have happened anyway.

The following are all providers of carbon offsets in the UK:

Pure

Registered charity which buys up official Kyoto carbon credits and puts them beyond use, helping to finance emission-reducing projects and putting pressure on pollutors to cut emissions.

Climate Care

Sells offsets to counteract your carbon dioxide emissions, allowing you to contribute towards funding of sustainable energy and reforestation projects in developing countries.

CarbonNeutral Company

Sells carbon offsets based on forestry projects and climate-friendly energy projects (wind, solar and biomass) in developing countries across Asia and Eastern Europe.

The C-Change Trust

UK charity which guarantees that 75p of every £1 donated as an offset goes towards reinstating native woodlands in the UK for the benefit of the community.

Carbon Clear

Sells carbon offsets for individual activities, including driving, flying, household energy use and even use of disposable nappies!

Climate Stewards

A carbon offsetting initiative run by ‘A Rocha’ a Christian nature conservation organisation operating in 16 countries. Uses tree planting to encourage biodiversity and conservation.

Treeflights.com

Small company which plants one tree in a Welsh forest for every flight you book to offset your carbon emissions and encourage biodiversity.

My Carbon Debt

Offers advice on emissions reduction – they understand that where you can reduce, you will. But where you can’t they will offset the remaining emissions for you.

A word of warning
Carbon offsets may seem like the ideal solution to the fact that our driving and flying activities inevitably generate carbon emissions. However, you should always remember that they don’t actually undo the carbon you’ve released into the atmosphere.

In the case of tree-planting there are some scientific concerns that the carbon absorbed by a tree during its life is released back into the atmosphere when it dies or is cut down. In the case of renewable energy projects there is the question of whether the offset funds work which is “additional” – i.e. it would not have happened anyway.

Carbon offsets are a useful way of helping people acknowledge the impact of their activities and pay something additional towards their environmental impacts. However, they will not stop climate change on their own – to do that we need to actually reduce our personal emissions.

In general we always recommend that before considering offsets you ensure that you do everything possible to reduce your carbon emissions first.

There are a lot of different views on carbon offsets. For more information you may want to read some of the following:

“What is a carbon offset” – David Suzuki Foundation
“Sins of Emission” – The Economist (Aug 2006)
“The truth about carbon offsets” – CarbonInfo.org