Saturday, November 18, 2006

Is Carbon Offsetting a Con? The Prosecution Case

There has been much recent interest in 'carbon offsetting' - the idea that companies and individuals can ‘offset’ their carbon dioxide emissions by buying into low carbon projects such as renewables, energy efficiency and, most controversially, tree planting.

George Monbiot certainly does not mince his words when it comes to offset schemes. Writing in the Guardian, he likened offsetting to the 15th Century Dutch practice of paying for God’s pardon for crimes such as incest, lying or murder.

Back in July, the right-on magazine New Internationalist dedicated a whole issue, entitled “CO2NNED!”, to a demolition job on the offsetting industry, presenting their case with all the subtlety of a tabloid newspaper pursuing a suspected paedophile.

Last month the Advertising Standards Agency upbraided the Scottish and Southern Energy Group for a promise to plant trees to offset the emissions from their activities which they couldn't substantiate.

Beyond the ranting and raving, the central criticisms of carbon offsetting appear to be:

- They allow us to consume more without feeling guilty, buying off our pollution while pursuing business as usual.

- They deflect attention from the real problem which is over consumption.

- The effectiveness of the offset projects is suspect, particularly those in the third world.

To explore these arguments further, follow the links above, but in part two on this subject, I will present the case for the defence!


At 12:36 PM, Blogger The Environmentalist At Large said...

I work on the psychological issues regarding engaging people with climate change issues & there is absolutely no doubt - from a strictly psychological perspective, that people are always looking for ways to ease their conscience without actually taking action. That means either supporting environmental groups / campaigns or paying to offset their personal carbon. Business as usual / job done.

Graham Game.


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