Monday, January 22, 2007
Voluntary Offsets For Air-Travel Carbon Emissions
Evaluations and Recommendations of Voluntary Offset Companies
Tufts Climate Initiative report
This paper examines the rapidly growing market for voluntary carbon offsets. As TCI describes it: "The report focuses specifically on how to evaluate offsets companies to offset air travel emissions. Voluntary offsets are of limited value to solve the increasing threat of climate change. They should not be seen as a way to buy “environmental pardons.” In most countries, jet fuel is currently not taxed. Yet to internalize some of the environmental cost and to more accurately reflect the true costs of air travel, such a tax is vital. In December 2006, the E.U. will unveil draft rules for capping airline emissions. The E.U. is proposing to regulate intercontinental flights that use European airports for takeoff or landing. Under these plans, there will be a cap on CO2 emissions – airlines would get a certain number of pollution allowances each year. The U.S. is opposed to such legislation and is threatening legal action against the proposed rules on the grounds that such legislation would violate trade rules. To successfully avert the looming catastrophes that we are facing with global climate change, very strong and swift regulatory action is needed on the state, national and international level. No voluntary approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be allowed to delay or replace a mandatory federal cap on carbon emissions or a worldwide tax on jet fuel. Yet voluntary carbon offsets do have their place in spurring innovation and financing carbon-reducing projects that would otherwise not have happened. They are especially appropriate for individuals who have done their best to reduce their personal emissions but would like to neutralize some of the unavoidable emissions that they are responsible for. Air travel is a good example for this. First and foremost, we all should work on minimizing our air travel. But some flying might be unavoidable, for example for academics who need to attend professional conferences, for musicians who tour internationally or for expatriates who wish to visit their relatives. As is to be expected with new business opportunities, the quality and standards of voluntary offset companies vary widely – or as one of our reviewers put it: “It’s the Wild West!” Some offset companies are run by very seasoned carbon trading experts who are well versed in all the issues that surround carbon trading, others are much less experienced and are either using carbon offset to further promote their environmental or humanitarian missions or see the emerging market as a financial opportunity. Neither of these objectives is inherently bad, if the offsets that are sold meet high standards, yet unfortunately that is not always the case. This report and the 2-page pamphlet ‘Flying Green: How To Protect the Climate and Travel Responsibly’ offer guidelines for consumers wishing to offset their emissions. It takes a look at 13 companies and organizations that sell offsets to individuals. The report does not provide final answers but is meant as a think piece to raise the many questions that still need to be addressed in this newly emerging field. We hope that this paper, together with other reports that have recently been published, will help catalyze discussion and will ultimately help steer the market towards offering high quality carbon offsets to concerned citizens.
Two other reports on this subject are Consumers Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers, December 2006 report, Clean Air – Cool Planet and the Carbon Trust three stage approach to developing a robust offsetting strategy Carbon Trust.
Companies reviewed by Tufts:
atmosfair. Available online at: http://www.atmosfair.de/index.php?id=9&L=3 Last
accessed on 12/12/06.
Better World Club. Available online at: www.betterworldclub.com/links/offsets.htm and
http://www.betterworldclub.com/ Last accessed on 12/12/06.
CarbonCounter. Available online at: http://www.carboncounter.org/index.php Last
accessed on 12/12/06.
Carbonfund. Available online at: http://www.carbonfund.org Last accessed on 12/12/06.
Clean Air Pass. Available online at: https://www.cleanairpass.com/cap/home.jsf Last
accessed on 12/12/06.
Climate Care. Available online at: http://www.climatecare.org Last accessed on 12/12/06.
climate friendly. Available online at: http://www.climatefriendly.com Last accessed on
myclimate (Swiss site). Available online at: http://www.myclimate.org/index.php?lang=en
Last accessed on 12/12/06.
myclimate (US site). Available online at: http://www.my-climate.com/ Last accessed on 12/12/06.
NativeEnergy. Available online at: www.nativeenergy.com Last accessed on 12/12/06.
Offsetters. Available online at: http://www.offsetters.ca Last accessed on 12/12/06.
Solar Electric Light Fund. Available online at: http://www.SELF.org/cnc.asp and
http://www.SELF.org Last accessed on 12/12/06.
TerraPass. Available online at: http://www.terrapass.com/ Last accessed on 12/12/06.