The inconvenient truth about the carbon offset industry

The Guardian on Saturday carried the concluding part of a major investigation, by Nick Davies showing how greenhouse gas credits do little or nothing to combat global warming. It is worrying how the offsetting industry has grown in this manner. Carbon offsetting has been referred to here and others as chocolate teapots, not at all addressing the carbon reduction. It has also been called carbon off-putting.

There is a growing trend in construction and property to address the required carbon reduction targets through offputting. This was illustrated within the recently published to internet construction (new housing) local plan from a local authority (down south!) which claims, and I guess this is typical:

Although carbon neutrality is possible by just using on-site measures, it is recognized that at least for the foreseeable future, it is challenging and expensive and therefore carbon offset is proposed as an alternative more cost effective option. On-site measures will be encouraged where possible to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which will of course reduce the carbon offset payment.

(ie likely to result in a do nothing business as usual approach)

A one-off contribution will be required to the carbon offset fund, at a rate of £200 (index-linked)  for each tonne carbon dioxide by means of a Section 106 agreement or unilateral undertaking. Coupled with existing best practice in energy efficiency, carbon offset could provide carbon neutrality for a few hundred pounds per house.

(so .. for a few hundred pounds? – no problem then ?)

However – if as the Guardian article suggests that even ‘immediate‘ carbon offputting schemes may take 100 years to ‘offset’ -will we miss the window of time to act that scientists say we must address, (the reason for the urgency in all this carbon management) and of course miss the targets for zero carbon housing in 2016.

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