Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Looking Back...and Forward

2006, like the last several years before it, was one of the hottest on record. It was the year the first inhabitated island disappeared beneath rising seas. It was the year when people began to realise we may lose the polar bears in the near future.

2006, then, was a bad year for the climate.

But it was also the year that An Inconvenient Truth became one of the most-watched documentary films of all time. 2006 was the year that California - synonymous with car-centred living - passed landmark climate change legislation. It was the year that UK politicians strove to outdo one another with their concern about climate change. It was the year that carbon offsets made the news.

In 2006, "carbon neutral" became the Oxford American Dictionary's Word of the Year.

2006, then, was a good year for the climate. Fighting global warming is no longer a fringe issue. More and more of us are coming together to , and to press government and to take action.

At Carbon Clear, we're looking forward to 2007 as the year when we all start to turn the tide on climate change. We hope you'll join in.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Rising Seas Claim First Inhabited Island

The Independent reports that the island of Lohachara, off the Bay of Bengal, has disappeared from satellite images. This is the first recorded instance of an inhabited island disappearing beneath the waves.

Refugees from the vanished Lohachara island and the disappearing Ghoramara island have fled to Sagar, but this island has already lost 7,500 acres of land to the sea. In all, a dozen islands, home to 70,000 people, are in danger of being submerged by the rising seas.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Location, Location, Location

A few months ago we talked about all the local benefits our tree planting projects provide for communities in developing countries: slowing the spread of deserts, providing fruits and medicines, and putting nutrients back into the soil. Of course, it's always useful to remember the climate benefits.

Deforestation is responsible for nearly 20% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. That's 1.4 BILLION tonnes in 2005. So at Carbon Clear, we support efforts to slow and reverse deforestation. That includes projects that prevent people from cutting down trees as well as responsible, carefully chosen projects that plant new trees in developing countries. After all, tree planting has already been approved as a carbon offset approach under the Kyoto Protocol's "Clean Development Mechanism".

Not all tree planting projects are created equal - location matters a lot. A recent study by climate scientists Ken Caldeira and Govindasamy Bala showed that planting trees near the equator provides greater climate benefit than planting in northern countries, because the leaves of new trees planted in the north trap relatively more of the sun's heat.

"Our study shows that tropical forests are very beneficial to the climate because they take up carbon and increase cloudiness, which in turn helps cool the planet," explained Dr Bala

On the other hand, says Bala, " the so-called mid-latitude region where the United States is located and majority of European countries are located, the climate benefits of planting will be nearly zero...In fact, planting more trees in high latitudes could be counterproductive from a climate perspective."

All our current and planned community-based tree planting projects are on or close to the equator, thus maximising the location-based carbon benefit that Bala and Caldeira document. And as always, we focus on projects that provide social and economic benefits to participating communities at the same time they're absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

A Carbon Clear Winter

One of the easiest ways to slash your household carbon emissions is to switch to a green electricity provider, and we urge all our customers to make the switch. For the average household, that's 1.4 tonnes taken care of.

Next comes your gas emissions, all 3.9 tonnes. Some moves, like turning down your thermostat and insulating your house can save you money and reduce some emissions by a few percent. But let's face it - it can get cold in winter. Three-fourths of the UK's natural gas use occurs during the colder months, and it will be difficult to do without heat and hot water this winter.

At Carbon Clear, we don't think fighting climate change means you have to sit in the cold and the dark. We urge people to reduce what emissions they can at home, and use offsets to cancel out any unavoidable climate pollution that remains. Our household gas offset helps people who've already made the switch to green electricity enjoy a Carbon Clear winter.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Shoppers' Paradise

In recent days the dollar has fallen to near-record lows against the pound. For British shoppers the timing couldn't be better.

There are only three weeks left until Christmas and cut-throat competition means U.S. retailers are slashing their prices.

The planes are packed with British bargain-hunters doing their Christmas shopping in New York, Boston, and other American cities. There are so many travellers, in fact, that British Airways has added four extra flights per week to the U.S.

But a great deal for shoppers may mean bad news for the planet. Each airline passenger flying between London and New York is responsible for 1.5 tonnes of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere. So please think twice before you book that flight.

But if the shopping is just too good to miss, we'll help you clean up the mess. Offsetting your transatlantic flight will cost just £13.50, and support investments in carbon saving projects around the world.

Remember to always reduce what you can, and offset the rest. And good luck with customs.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Friday, 1 December 2006

EU Announces New CO2 Limits

The European Union yesterday announced 2008-2012 CO2 allowances for ten countries, under the Kyoto Protocol climate change treaty. Countries that are not able to keep pollution within these limits must purchase carbon credits from countries that do not use their entire allowance.

The UK's new annual emissions limit will be 246.2 million tonnes of CO2, compared to a limit of 245.3 million tonnes in 2005. In other words, the country will have to hold emissions constant despite a growing economy and rising population. Other countries, like Germany, face more stringent year-on-year cuts.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “Today’s decisions send a strong signal that Europe is fully committed to achieving the Kyoto target and making the EU ETS a success."

Thursday, 30 November 2006

The Fifth Fuel

The main fuels used to produce our electricity are coal, natural gas, nuclear, and renewables like wind and hydropower.

Since burning coal and natural gas releases CO2, and nuclear has its own long term problems, we always encourage people to get their electricity from the fourth fuel - renewables. But there's not enough renewable power available for all of Britain's needs. Fortunately, there is another alternative.

Energy efficiency is sometimes referred to as the "fifth fuel". If you can light your home, run your appliances, and drive your car more efficiently, then you need less of the dirty stuff - and can reduce your carbon footprint. Take a look here and at previous blog posts for some tips to get you started.

Efficiency can help you reduce your CO2 emissions while maintaining a modern lifestyle. For your remaining carbon emissions, there is an offset package from Carbon Clear.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Friday, 17 November 2006

World Bank Urges More Carbon Finance for Africa

World Bank carbon markets coordinator Karan Capoor criticised large carbon brokers for failing to invest in projects that help the poorest people in Africa.

Most large carbon finance transactions in the developing world have focused on India and China, and those that have taken place in Africa have focused on South Africa and Egypt.

Said Capoor: "We believe this unnecessarily penalises the poorest people in the poorest countries in the world, and we would urge policymakers to look at that..."

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Share The Love, Part 2

In our last post, we talked about a quick and easy way to cut your personal carbon footprint: more people in a car means lower emissions per person. After all, that's why buses and trains full of passengers are more eco-friendly than driving. But when the bus or train isn't convenient, you're back in your car.

What can you do if your next door neighbour doesn't need to go where you're driving? Simple: just find someone who does. That's where Freewheelers come in.

Freewheelers' website has a neat summary of their goal: "The aim of Freewheelers is to reduce pollution by reducing car usage. By linking drivers and passengers to share the cost of travel it also saves you money."

Here's how it works. First, signup - it only takes 30 seconds. Then click on the name of the town you're in or your destination. A list will appear of all the vehicles with a matching itinerary and space for passengers. For example, you may find someone who does the same daily commute as you from Bath to Oxford. Get in contact via the site, make sure you're happy with the person with whom you're travelling, and you're off!

I did ridesharing like this when I lived in California and found it a great way to save time and motoring expenses. It's also a good way to reduce your personal CO2 emissions.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

UK Parties Compete to Offer Climate Change Bills

Britain's Labour government is preparing to announce a series of measures to help fight climate change, and will introduce a formal bill into Parliament next year. Not to be outdone, the opposition Conservative Party is offerring its own proposals.

"The plans are an environmentalist's dream. Sixty per cent cuts in emissions by 2050, rolling annual targets policed by independent commissioners and yearly reports to parliament on a carbon budget."

Monday, 13 November 2006

Share The Love

While walking down the road the other day, I suddenly found myself engulfed in fumes from a passing bus. It seems hard to believe such a polluting vehicle could be part of a low-carbon lifestyle, doesn't it?

The fact is, buses and trains get very low fuel economy compared to passenger cars. Where they win is by carrying a lot of passengers, so the fuel use or pollution per passenger is quite small. The typical car only has one occupant, so if you're in your car alone, you're responsible for every passenger-mile of pollution.

One way to change this situation is to carry more passengers. Traveling 5,000 miles in a medium car might result in 1.5 tonnes of personal CO2 pollution, while covering that same distance by rail would only result in 0.32 tonnes. But if you had three passengers in your car, the CO2 pollution per person would only be 0.38 tonnes - quite close to what you get on the train.

Four people in a hybrid car would result in 0.22 tonnes per person - considerably less than taking the train.

It probably doesn't make sense to round up the neighbors to join you everytime you need to drive into town. Buses and trains have an important role to play. But if you can schedule your car journeys so that you and your neighbours travel together once in a while, you can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint. And make some new friends at the same time. And of course, you can offset all your remaining emissions with a Carbon Clear package.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Saturday, 11 November 2006

Reduce What You Can - Right From Your Rooftop

Today I joined men across the country in a time honoured tradition - wandering the aisles of my local B&Q home improvement store.

Their latest offering is a small rooftop wind turbine. "Generate Your Own Renewable Energy!" reads the sign over the in-store display.

This is great news - a way to reduce your carbon footprint, save money, and reduce your dependence on the electric grid. Here's how:

The B&Q wind turbine can generate 1,000 watts of power, but the wind doesn't blow that regularly in most places. Over the course of a year it might average a fifth of this. The list price is £1498, and the brochure claims you may be eligible for a 30% subsidy. So here's how the numbers work out:

At average UK electricity rates, the turbine will cut your electricity bill by £100 a year, and reduce CO2 emissions by 0.75 tonnes, 14% of your household total. That's a great start on the way to a low-carbon economy. And the money you save is enough to offset your remaining CO2 emissions with cash left for a night out on the town.

Monday, 6 November 2006

UN Report: Africa Most At Risk From Climate Change

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has just released a report showing that Africa may be hardest hit by climate change impacts. The report, timed to coincide with the week-long climate change summit in Nairobi, highlights a range of risks, including:

- inundation of major cities following sea level rise;
- increased drought and soil degradation on a continent where 70% off people work in agriculture;
- increased stress on sensitive animal and plant habitats.

Says UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner:

"Climate change is underway and the international community must respond by offering well targeted assistance to those countries in the front-line which are facing increasing impacts such as extreme droughts and floods and threats to infrastructure from phenomena like rising sea levels"

The report stresses that adaptation to these effects must go hand-in-hand with ongoing efforts to reduce global CO2 emissions.

(...editorial comment...)

At Carbon Clear, we feel that initiatives like our community tree-planting projects in Tanzania and India, which help local people protect degraded soils while capturing CO2, are an important part of this effort. By improving livelihoods we can help strengthen the resilience of local communities at the same time that we're helping to reduce global CO2 emissions.

Climate Change: Simple Things You Can Do

Newspapers are full of articles about the Stern Report on the costs of climate change. The headlines focus on the bad news - that left unchecked, climate change impacts could throw us into a global recession.

But there is some good news in the 700 page report, too. Here's how UK Environment Minister David Milliband sees it:

"The second half of his message is that the technology does exist, the financing, public and private, does exist, and the international mechanisms also exist to get to grips with this problem."

What can you do to help? We've talked about a lot of quite painless measures before (scroll down the blog to see the details):

- Switch to a green electricity supplier (save 1.4 tonnes of CO2);
- Switch off any appliances that are on standby (save 0.35 tonnes and £45);
- Install a wind turbine and run your electric meter in reverse;
- Drive at 65mph instead of 75mph on the highway (save 0.20 tonnes and £80);
- Try to work from home one day each month (save 0.10 tonnes and £40).

These measures can reduce total emissions by over 20%, and save you money. For those activities you can't avoid, there's an offset package from Carbon Clear. If you make some basic reductions at home, you can save enough money to offset the rest and still come out ahead.

We will invest in outside emissions reductions to balance out your unavoidable climate change pollution. Our projects reduce emissions while improving the quality of life in some of the developing country communities most vulnerable to climate change impacts.

So go climate-neutral today - by doing what you can at home and by clearing the rest with a Carbon Clear package.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Saturday, 4 November 2006

Remember, Remember the 4th of November

This coming week, the good and great from around the world will meet in Nairobi to evaluate their progress on fighting climate change and plan what comes next.

A little closer to home, a coalition of British NGOs is organising a rally to urge UK ministers to reduce national emissions by 3% every year.

The government response to this NGO pressure has been cautious. While a 3% reduction sounds reasonable, it becomes harder when both population and the economy are growing. Rising incomes and rising numbers means more homes, more travel, more consumer goods, more communication. Ministers, already worried about international competitiveness and jobs, don't want to take unilateral action if it puts British companies at a disadvantage against overseas rivals.

But they should not be too cautious. We need to cut emissions by 60% by 2050 in order to stave off the worst effects of climate change. Standing still is not an option; we need to transition to a low-carbon economy. The majority of big corporations around the world already accept that emissions must be cut- they're just waiting for a clear and stable regulatory framework so they can make rational long-term decisions. Companies like GE, Virgin, and HSBC have shown that they can find creative ways to reduce CO2 emissions while growing their business. Let's encourage them to do more.

In the days after November 4th, the UK and governments around the world have an opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and set a clear timeline for the next round of global CO2 emissions reductions targets.

And all of us can also reaffirm their commitment to a low-carbon lifestyle by redudcing our own carbon footprint - through reductions at home and offsets for what remains.

Let's make the 4th of November a day to remember.

(*With apologies to Guy Fawkes.)

(Carbon Clear homepage)

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Carbon Trading on the Rise

The Financial Times reports Morgan Stanley has joined the growing legion of corporations who want to play a role in the fight against climate change. The company announced that it plans to invest $3 billion (£1.6 billion) into carbon markets.

The corporate world is helping to drive the growth of the sector, which could be worth $1 trillion (£529 billion) within five years of an international agreement. More and more businesses are paying attention:

"The prospect of building an international consensus...appeared to strengthen as Citigroup, the world's largest bank by market value, said in a research note that carbon trading was almost certainly going to become the most important weapon in combating global warming, including in the US."

Monday, 23 October 2006

Stopping Standby

The EU's energy commssioner wants to set new energy efficiency standards for electrical appliances acrosss the continent. These rules, targeted at the European Union's 480 million consumers, would reduce energy use by 20% by 2020.

Why wait? You can start saving energy (and money!) at home and at work right now. One of the easiest and most painless things you can do is slay your electrical "vampires". These are appliances that consume electricity even when you think they're switched off. Think about that for a minute - even when they're not doing anything useful, those little boxes are costing you money and energy.

I've gone around my house and spotted at least 20 of these standby devices - the microwave, the answering machine, the television and set-top box, even the charger for my beloved iPod.

Let's assume for a moment that each of these devices uses 5 watts of electricity on standby. If each of them sits unused for, say, 22 hours per day, that's 350 kilograms of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere - about the same as some short-haul flights.

350 kilograms is only a fraction of the CO2 emissions from the average UK household, but switching these items off at the wall instead of leaving them on standby would save nearly £45 in electricity costs. It's an easy and painless way to save money. And that would cover the cost of offsetting the remaining emissions from household electricity and gas.

Stopping standby is only one way you can reduce your emissions. We'd love to hear your suggestions.

Drop us a line at blog at

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

A Long, Hot Summer

October 21st is National Apple Day here in the UK. But in my neighbourhood the apples ripened and fell from the trees a month ago. The leaves are still green and the grass is growing. My colleague Mark tells me that tomatoes are still growing in his back garden. People are walking around in T-shirts.

All this in late October, in England.

It's not just people who are noticing the change:

"The redwing, a species of thrush that was once a frequent visitor from Scandinavia in winter, is disappearing from our skies. 'It used to fly to Scotland to eat our berries and avoid the freezing conditions of its Scandinavian homeland, but now winters have become so mild over there, it is staying put,' said Paul Stancliffe of the British Trust for Ornithology."

The scientific community was convinced ages ago that climate change is real. But there's nothing like seeing with your own eyes what a warmer world will look like.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Thursday, 19 October 2006

U.S. Companies Expect Climate Change Law By 2010

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change reports that many companies in the United States are beginning to address their climate change impact now. Their moves are in anticipation of eventual U.S. action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

“If you look at what is happening today at the state level and in the Congress, a proactive approach in the policy arena clearly makes sound business sense” said the Pew Center’s Eileen Claussen. “In the corporate world, inaction is no longer an option."

"All companies will be affected to varying degrees, and all have a managerial and fiduciary obligation at least to assess their business exposure to decide whether action is prudent."

Trees That Work Harder

We've known for a long time that trees absorb the greenhouse gas CO2 from the atmosphere. In fact, tree planting is an approved carbon offsetting approach under the Kyoto Protocol's "Clean Development Mechanism" - signed by the UK and 165 other governments.

But planting trees in developing countries can do more than fight climate change - it can create a "virtuous circle" of environmental and social improvement.

Desertification affects over 250 million people worldwide, as climate change and poor management practices in the past cause vital agricultural land to be lost to deserts. With less land to grow food, insecurity and poverty become more of a threat. Now trees are helping local communities fight back.

Tree roots prevent soil from being blown away by the wind, and can help replenish the soil. Meanwhile, the branches and leaves provide shade for smaller bushes and crops. The leaves and fruit of the trees provide food and medicines for the community, and nutrients to fortify the soil. This helps farmers grow more food and fodder for their livestock, and the livestock's manure enriches the soil even further.

Thanks to an ambitious tree planting programme, Niger, a country on the borders of the Sahara Desert, has managed to reclaim 250,000 hectares of degraded land and return it to production. Local farmers, and especially women, are seeingthe benefit:

"Thanks to the increase in the vegetation coverage, we are not dependent on others any more," said Idder Addo, a 60-year-old farmer from Batoudi, near Tahoua. "We can do vegetable and fruit plantations that bring us money."

"Women can spend more time developing crops, they have more money, and then they can do other businesses such as livestock and forestry. That means their children can go to schools and their land is more valued...Child mortality has dropped in the region as well, partly thanks to food diversification, [Nigerien Agronomics Research Institute researcher Germaine] Ibro said.

At Carbon Clear, we're strong supporters of efforts like these. We recognise that people in the developing world are most at risk from climate change. That's why we invest in tree planting projects to help local farmers restore degraded land and reduce their vulnerability, while absorbing CO2. And of course, we employ rigorous monitoring and tracking to ensure that the climate benefits from these projects are real.

The developing world needs a lot more trees. When you buy an offset package from Carbon Clear, you're contributing to this effort.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

World urgently needs post-Kyoto climate deal: U.N.

Reuters reports that the United Nations wants immediate action to put in place rules for a post-Kyoto climate change agreement. The Kyoto climate treaty expires in 2012, and uncertainty about what comes next has limited long term investment from the corporate world.

"Business officials told the conference they needed long-term, stable regulations to invest in new clean energy technologies and develop the emissions trading market further.

"There has to be a value for the carbon beyond 2012 in order to drive the changes necessary ... The time to act is now," said Graeme Sweeney, Executive Vice President Renewables, Hydrogen and CO2 at oil giant Royal Dutch Shell.

ABN AMRO's sustainable development director Richard Burrett agreed: "A lot of the technologies we are talking about have economic lives of 15-20-30 years. There is no way people will commit to invest with a scheme that runs out in 2012."

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Run Your Electric Meter In Reverse

Imagine if you could reduce your carbon footprint, and actually get the power company to pay you. My friend Andy knows how.

I first met Andy Kruse of Southwest Windpower back in 1996 when I used his wind turbines for a project I was managing in South Africa. He hasn't lost his passion for making CO2-free energy reliable and affordable.

Andy's company recently announced a new product that allows you to feed excess electricity back to the grid.

It's called reverse metering, and it has the potential to make renewable energy a more viable option for home power generation across the developed world.

Generating electricity with wind and other renewable energy systems is a great way to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. But you may not need electricity at the exact moment the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. So you either have to let that power go to waste, or buy an expensive set of batteries to store it. Either way, that's more money spent.

With reverse metering, you connect your wind turbine or solar panels to the grid, and get credit from the utility for any power you don't need. With any luck, you're not only reducing your overall carbon emissions, but might actually make a little money.

Reverse metering is still very rare in the UK, but this arrangement could really change the economics of home power. Call your electric utility today and ask them about it.

Monday, 9 October 2006

Stern Report: Climate Change Costs Manageable, For Now

Nicholas Stern is a former World Bank economist commissioned by the UK Government to evaluate the economic costs of climate change. In a closed door briefing to world leaders at a climate change summit in Mexico, he warned yesterday that the costs of combatting global warming are manageable.

However, the longer we wait to take action, the more difficult it will be. What's more, the cost of environmental impacts from doing nothing will rise even faster.

The full Stern Report is due to be published here in a few days.

Saturday, 7 October 2006

All the Reductions, None of the Pain

Earlier this week, a New York Times journalist wrote about his efforts to go on a "carbon diet". He set a target of half a tonne of CO2 reductions and wanted to put the measures in place that very day. He had one clear ground rule: if the measure was unpleasant or painful, he wasn't going to do it.

That meant no energy saving lightbulbs if they made his home look like "the restroom in a bus station", and no way was he giving up his big-screen TV.

Guess what? He did it, by reprogramming the thermostat, switching appliances off instead of leaving them on standby, and similar simple acts.

Was this journalist being a bit selfish by demanding that his "carbon diet be painless"? Perhaps. Could he hadve done more? Definitely. But he was being realistic. If his carbon diet were unpleasant and something to dread, he knew he'd eventually give up. Better to start with the easy steps and work up to the difficult stuff.

At Carbon Clear we understand. That's why we encourage you to take the first step and reduce what you can. We'll offset the rest of your climate pollution this year. Next year you can reduce a little more, and offset a little less.

But you can get started now. It doesn't have to hurt.

(Link to Carbon Clear Website)

Friday, 6 October 2006

What Difference Can One Person Make?

Climate change is a huge problem. Global, in fact. It's easy to think that one person can't make much of a difference.

Easy, but wrong.

Global warming is happening because of the individual decisions each of us make every day. Our individual actions, summed up, got us where we are, and they can help solve this problem, too.

Carbon Clear was formed to help bring people together to tackle climate change. We pool the resources and brainpower of our individual supporters who want to scale up their carbon-reduction efforts.

Our fixed costs as a company rise much slower than our project-related expenses. This means that the more individual supporters we get, the greater the share of money we can put into work on the ground.

At present, nearly 70% of every penny we bring in goes directly to carbon reduction projects that improve local livelihoods. Most of the rest goes to identifying new projects, communicating with our customers, and growing the movement of people who work with us to solve this problem.

Each individual and company who joins us makes our work even more effective. We'd be thrilled if you could help us make a difference.

(Link to Carbon Clear website)

Sunday, 24 September 2006

Free* Offsets from Carbon Clear!

Here's a way reduce your personal CO2 emissions, get your Carbon Clear offset package at no additional cost, and get a free lunch.

Work from home just one day a month. That's it; no tricks, no gimmicks.

Here's the deal: Explain to your boss (or yourself if you're the boss) that you need to work at home once a month to finish up that important project without constant interruption. (Remember to actually do the office work and not the house-keeping.)

If you normally drive to work every day, keeping the car parked one day each month will save around £43 in petrol, and cut your driving related CO2 emissions by over 100kg! That's enough to purchase a medium car offset to cancel out the rest of your driving emissions - and have enough left for a nice lunch. If you can talk your boss into letting you work from home twice a month, that's more CO2 saved, and more free lunches.

What if you don't drive? If you live in London and pay £3 a day on the Tube, working from home once a month will save you £36. That's enough to offset that winter holiday flight to Southeast Asia you've been planning - and get that free lunch.

Remember, reduce what you can and offset the rest to keep us all moving towards a low carbon future.

And enjoy lunch.

(*Well, you save more than you pay.)

Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Why Do Companies Go Carbon Clear?

Here in the European Union, electric utilities and other fuel-hungry businesses are required by law to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. If they can’t make in-house reductions, they have to buy extra credits. These credits come from companies that have reduced their emissions even more than they were required.

The UK companies covered under this programme account for about a third of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Individuals account for roughly another third when they fly, drive, and heat their homes. The final third comes from businesses that aren’t covered under the European emissions reduction regulations.

Yet, if you read the news, more and more of these businesses are going on a carbon diet and voluntarily reducing their emissions. What’s going on?

We’ve been talking to our business customers, and here's what they say.

First, business owners and executives are also members of communities and families. They know that climate change is a serious issue and they want to be part of the solution. Reducing their emissions and buying offsets on a corporate scale helps them magnify their individual impact.

Many companies are reducing their climate pollution because their investors and customers demand it. The Carbon Disclosure Project works with the giant pension fund investors, and asks major companies to state what steps they are taking to deal with climate change. As a business, when your investors start asking questions, you tend to pay attention.

Third, reducing greenhouse gas emissions can give their company a competitive advantage. Being distinctly, verifiably greener can make companies stand out from the competition. Consumers are smart; they’ll sniff out a marketing gimmick a mile away. That’s why we always ask our business customers to make significant in-house reductions even as they purchase carbon offsets, for example by eliminating free staff and customer parking or switching to green electricity. If they need help, we’ll calculate their carbon footprint for them, and walk them through a range of different carbon-reduction options. In many cases, companies can actually save enough money to completely pay for their remaining offset purchases.

The total number of companies that have voluntarily gone on a carbon diet is still quite small. But we’re helping more and more every day. Both businesses and individuals have a role to play in tackling climate change.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Sunday, 17 September 2006

Free Offset Packages

Here’s a secret trick to getting your Carbon Clear offset packages for free. And get a free lunch thrown into the deal. Just promise not to tell too many people. Are you ready?

Drive 10 miles per hour slower on the highway. Seriously, that’s it. Free offsets and a free lunch. Here’s how it works.

Last year, the Edmunds automotive team took a bunch of cars out on an extended test drive, fitted with computerized mileage readouts. They found that driving the cars at 65 mph instead of 75 mph resulted in a 12% savings on fuel. Since most people do a lot of city driving as well, let’s cut that number in half and assume you’ll reduce fuel use by 6% over the next year. What's more, you'll reduce your driving-related CO2 emissions by the same amount!

Suppose you drive 12,000 miles per year in a car with moderately good mileage, say 36 miles per gallon. Reducing your speed a little would mean 90 litres (24 US gallons) less fuel that you have to buy. In the US where gas costs $2.50 per gallon, you’d save $60, enough to cover the cost of your medium car offset with cash to spare.

At today's average petrol price in the UK, you’d save £81. That means you could buy a medium car driving offset and offset your emissions from household gas and electricity. This would bring you deliciously close to a carbon-free lifestyle.

What’s more, you’d still have plenty of money left over for that free lunch.

(Link to Carbon Clear homepage)

Thursday, 14 September 2006

No Worries

We’re flooded by alarming climate change news these days. The latest is that methane that was stored in the Siberian permafrost 40,000 years ago is starting to bubble out.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, so some scientists are asking whether this is the start of a vicious circle of warming.

It would be easy for us to throw up our hands and say, “We’re doomed, let’s just party!” But we can’t. My kids and all the others in their and future generations won’t let us give up. There’s a lot we can do to make a difference right here and right now.

My kids’ have been playing a CD of Disney soundtracks non-stop for the past three weeks. After three weeks that Lion King song, “Hakuna Matata” is stuck in my head. So I’m putting it to good use - give or take a few changed lyrics:

No worries for the rest of the day,
It’s our carbon-free philosophy
Hakuna Matata

Monday, 11 September 2006

9/11 And The End Of Air Travel

Five years ago on this day, I lived in Washington, DC. On the morning of September 11th there was still one hijacked plane unaccounted for, and I was racing against the flow of traffic to reach my daughter’s day-care, two blocks from the White House. Later, if I walked down the road, I could see the smoke rising from the Pentagon.

One of the most noticeable things in the days that followed was that the skies were empty, save for the occasional military fighter patrol. We lived in the flight path of Reagan National Airport, so the silence was both welcome and disconcerting. Everything seemed different, and we wondered whether the airport would ever reopen.

In the end, flights to Reagan National resumed, just as they had at airports all around the US. The largest terrorist attack in the nation’s history was not going to keep most people out of airplanes for more than a few weeks.

Fast forward five years and we’re in London. Security alerts mean that it can take more than three hours to check in at Heathrow. A few people stay away, but most simply arrive hours early. For many people, hours of queuing, body searches, no liquids, and the like is the price they are willing to pay to get on a flight. Okay, maybe “willing” is putting things too strongly.

All this should be sobering news for people worried about the environmental impact of flying. It’s going to be an uphill battle to solve the problem by keeping people off of airplanes. A lot of people will continue to fly regardless of how many taxes are imposed or how much environmental guilt is piled on. For many people, airplanes are simply their preferred mode of travel and only an outright ban will stop them from flying. I’m not passing judgement here, just acknowledging a fact.

So what can we do? I think making the alternatives more attractive can help. Among other things, we need more affordable and reliable high-speed rail links to compete with short-haul flights. We can also work together to encourage the airline industry to use cleaner, more efficient aircraft. My former boss is hard at work on this now. Finally, we need to make it easier to clean up the remaining pollution.

(Link to Carbon Clear Homepage)

Thursday, 7 September 2006

All Hands on Deck!

When the ship is sinking, everyone needs to pitch in to help. The Financial Times quotes Prof. Peter Smith of Nottingam University as saying the “tipping point” to runaway global warming is closer than expected. Says Prof. Smith:

“We could reach the tipping point within 15 to 20 years from now, which would give us just 10 years tin which to determine the destiny of our planet…the government’s energy review totally fails to appreciate the urgency of the situation.”

The British Association Science Festival has been going on, and the attendees conclude that there’s no longer any doubt that climate change is serious. Now we know for sure we have a big problem and less time than we’d hoped to solve it. What do we do?

The international climate negotiators and technology developers are playing a long game. They’re working on solutions that will provide global, hopefully permanent, climate benefits. But many of them, from mandatory emissions reductions in China and India to replacing all our petrol engines with sustainable hydrogen, will take decades to achieve.

We can’t continue with business-as-usual while we wait. If you’ve been considering the switch to green electricity, go ahead and give it a try. Thinking about signing up for a car-sharing scheme? No time like the present. It's true that planting trees and similar measures are a temporary fix - they only help as long as the trees survive. Similarly, lowering the thermostat only works as long as we remember to do it. But if these efforts can buy us some time, pushing the “tipping point” back a few more years, it gives us more time to transition to a true low-carbon economy. Every little bit helps, but we all have to pitch in.

(Carbon Clear Homepage)

Monday, 4 September 2006

Carbon Trading: Not Just for Big Business

The past week was a big one for the fight against climate change.

In California, Arnold Schwarzenegger announced plans to reduce state-wide greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Here in the UK, David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, shared the stage with Friends of the Earth and floated a raft of environmental proposals. Meanwhile, a horde of demonstrators descended on the UK’s largest coal-fired power plant, which goes by the movie-villain name Drax.

Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have been staging “green” photo-ops for the cameras for years. Some, like Tony Blair, have already put in place substantive measures to help the environment. But the Schwarzenegger and Cameron moves might prove to be more than clever PR from the more rightward parties in the US and UK. I think the Drax protest shows that climate change is an issue that can galvanise people to take action in the way that the anti-apartheid movement did two decades earlier. Politicians ignore this kind of sentiment at their peril.

The major climate change initiatives in place in the UK, and those being set up in California, require polluters to reduce their emissions. Once emitters have reduced what they can, the initiatives give them the flexibility to purchase carbon offsets from firms that can achieve the remaining reductions more cost-effectively. As long as overall emissions have gone down, everyone should be satisfied.

In both cases, however, this trading is only open to large, polluting industries. Smaller companies and individuals who want to do their part are left to their own resources.

Protesting at power stations is not the only way for everyday people to help. We can all take common sense measures to reduce our uses of fossil fuels. We can insulate our homes and replace loose-fitting windows. We can drive less, share a ride, and purchase more efficient vehicles. And we can use tools similar to those of big business, and purchase offsets to move the rest of the way towards our emissions reduction targets.

Offsets: They’re not just for big business. We can all become "carbon-neutral".

(Carbon Clear homepage)

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Well, it's a start...

From our friends at ENN:

"The European Union warned carmakers Tuesday that it will introduce legislation to enforce cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, if the industry does not work harder to meet voluntary pollution-cutting targets."

The voluntary target they mention is a 25% carbon emissions cut between 1995 and 2008. So for every kilometer traveled, the average car should produce 25% less greenhouse gas emissions.

This is good news. I love my Honda Civic hybrid, but consumers should have a wider array of clean cars to choose from.

Of course, total kilometres traveled in that period has increased by almost 20% in the UK. If this trend continues, the gains from driving cleaner cars will be completely wiped out by the time the deadline passes.

I know I keep banging this drum, but a cleaner car is only part of the solution to driving-related climate pollution. The other parts are to reduce the amount you drive, and to use carbon offsets for whatever you can't reduce.

What steps are you taking?

(Carbon Clear homepage)

Sunday, 27 August 2006

Aid, Trade and Global Warming

There’s a lot of debate about how best to help people in poor and disaster-prone communities around the world. Finding the right balance between trade and aid seems particularly hard. Do donations of money, food, and equipment meet urgent basic needs, or do they just encourage dependency and relieve local leaders of responsibility to care for their own people? One aid agency representative recently compared aid donations to “crack” cocaine. Given aid's mixed track record, the World Bank and others have spent a lot of time and effort trying to figure out when it helps, and when it harms.

Maybe trade is the way forward? The WTO and others argue that integrating local producers into the global economy is the best way to channel money into local communities around the world and encourage more efficient production. Mexican maize farmers forced off their land to make way for this efficient process might beg to differ. Groups like Fairtrade and EqualExchange try to make sure that local producers benefit from this exchange. Meanwhile, UK consumers, worried about “food miles” are beginning to wonder whether they want to buy flowers and produce flown in from Kenya and other developing countries.

So what does all this have to do with global warming?

A few weeks ago, a development aid campaigner attended a screening of “An Inconvenient Truth” in London. Afterwards, she asked Al Gore what we should do to address the impacts of climate change on people in poorer countries – since they would be most vulnerable to floods, drought, and the like. Soon an email began making the rounds boasting about catching Gore off guard.

That aid campaigner raises a legitimate question, but it’s based on two assumptions. First, that drastic climate change is inevitable; and second, that there’s nothing we can do between now and then to reduce people’s vulnerability.

I hope both of those assumptions are wrong. I believe that working together, we can all take action – right here and right now to limit climate change. While aid is important when people need immediate help, I also believe that the right kinds of trade can raise incomes and improve livelihoods in poor communities. With less poverty, communities can be better prepared for disasters, whether from climate change, political strife or other causes.

When you and I purchase carbon offsets for our driving or airplane flights, we are not making an aid donation. We are buying carbon credits that are generated through the hard work of people and organisations around the world. We are not simply paying to relieve our guilt. These credits represent real, measurable action to reduce climate change. And when the credits come from projects that improve local livelihoods, they serve a double benefit by reducing poverty and vulnerability.

Buying carbon offsets is not a cure-all. But, properly designed, they can be part of the solution to two problems.

(Carbon Clear home page)

Thursday, 24 August 2006

Bellies or Fuel Tanks?

Continuing our impromptu series on tricky tradeoffs, let’s compare the following quotations:

First this:

Ford has already put more than 1.5 million bioethanol capable vehicles on the road across the world and will produce 250,000 more this year.

Then this:

… biofuels presented one of three major challenges for farming, alongside climate change and a rising world population.

Food output would have to rise by 40 percent in the next 25 years to keep pace with a rise in the world population to nine billion people. That in turn will strain demand for irrigation with one in three people living in regions with water shortages.

Where do we put all that corn and soyabeans, in our bellies or fuel tanks? Another one to watch.

In my opinion, biofuels are merely a stop-gap solution, until we can transition to renewables-based hydrogen or electricity to run our cars.

(Link to Carbon Clear homepage)

Wednesday, 23 August 2006

Kyoto vs. Montreal

Talk about your unintended consequences. Remember the ozone layer? The good news is that the man-made ozone hole over Antartica is shrinking - it should be fully healed in another 60 years. The signers of the Montreal Protocol, which led to the phase out of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in spray cans, air conditioners, and fire extinguishers, deserves a ton of credit for this.

The bad news is that most manufacturers switched to ozone-friendly hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) to replace CFCs as a refrigerant. Our friends at Wikipedia tell us that in terms of global warming, HCFCs are 1,700 times as potent as good old carbon dioxide. Even methane pales in comparison. The Kyoto Protocol calls for a drastic reduction in HCFC emissions. Refrigirator and air conditioner manufacturers in countries bound by the Montreal Protocol say they don't have a good alternative.

This is a battle that bears watching. The silver lining for Kyoto is that a polluting refrigerant manufacturer can balance out those emissions by investing in pollution reducing projects elsewhere.

Walking the Talk

Two weeks ago, Craig Smith wrote an editorial for the Financial Times about BP's recent woes. In it he argued that it is not enough for companies to say that they are socially responsible. They have to prove it in their everyday actions.

This is definitely true when it comes to tackling climate change. Businesses were directly responsible for about 28% of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions last year. We're not going to make much progress reducing emissions unless more businesses decide to take action.

What about the rest of us? After all, those business emissions are, indirectly, our emissions. Most of those businesses are simply making stuff that people buy and use. And a whopping 47% of emissions come from the transport and residential sectors. That's you and me, choosing how to get to work and heat our homes.

So are we both "talking the talk" and "walking the walk"? A recent survey tells me we're not there yet. While 56% of people want companies to source environmentally friendly products, only 28% admit to doing so themselves. 41% demand that employers use "green electricity", but only 8% of respondents claim to have made the switch. (In fact, the market share for green electricity is quite a bit lower than even this number.)

What's going on? I think many people simply think the cost is too high. Switching electricity suppliers or shopping around for eco-friendly products takes time and effort, and everyone is busy. Giving up that hard-earned holiday flight to Spain may be too painful. Big companies can hire someone to improve their environmental footprint, but the average consumer has to do it himself or herself. As a result, many people either ignore the problem, or go around with a guilty cloud over their heads.

Carbon Clear's motto is "Modern Living Needn't Cost the Earth". We're not about guilt, we're about making it easy for people to take the first steps to reduce their global warming impact. Let's work together to take the first steps. We'll be setting up a page that helps you patronise businesses that have already gone Carbon Clear. And please let us hear from you with ideas and suggestions. Remember, reduce what you can, and clear the rest with Carbon Clear.

(Link to Carbon Clear homepage)

Sunday, 20 August 2006

The 60% Solution

Here in the UK, the average person generates about 10 tonnes of CO2 and other greenhouse gases each year. Here’s how the emissions might add up in a typical household:

(thanks, COIN)

According to the UK Department for Environment, Forestry, and Rural Affairs (Defra), we have to cut our national emissions by 60% in order keep temperature rises below two degrees Celsius and avoid the worst impacts of global warming. In the US, they’d have to cut emissions even more. And that’s just to prevent the worst damage, not solve the problem entirely.

How can you cut six tonnes of CO2 from your lifestyle? There are quite a few steps we can take that are relatively painless, and some reductions will actually save money. You’ve seen them before, so I won’t bore you with a laundry list in this post.

In short, drive a lot less. Fly a lot less. Reduce or eliminate gas use in your house and switch to a green electricity supplier. Buy locally produced food. If you’re run a business, switch to green electricity. Let your staff work from home on occasion. Provide incentives for staff to use public transport instead of driving. Videoconference instead of flying overseas to attend meetings.

All of these will help. But 60% less everything, is a big shift. If you live in a historically listed house or a rented flat, some renovations may be impossible, or public transport may simply not provide a good service where you live. So cutting emissions by 60% could require moving house and selling your car. If you run a company, the first 20% could save money, but that full 60% reduction might raise costs just enough to put you out of business. I think smarter land use planning, investments in public transport, better housing efficiency standards, and government incentives can make it easier for people to reduce their carbon footprint. At Carbon Clear we work with businesses to look at their operations and identify cost-effective options for in-house reductions.

But asking people to make all the reductions through personal sacrifice alone makes things too difficult. The last thing the environmental community needs is for people to feel that they can’t make a difference, and give up.

Our key message is to reduce what you can, but don’t get discouraged if you can’t manage a 60% reduction. Remember, a carbon reduction anywhere helps the atmosphere everywhere. What you can’t reduce directly, you can invest through Carbon Clear to support carbon reducing projects that benefit poor communities.

(Link to Carbon Clear Homepage)

Thursday, 17 August 2006

Reaching the Tipping Point

When I started looking seriously at climate science and policy back in pre-Kyoto 1990, it was considered a fringe issue by most people. When Al Gore talked about it in his book Earth in the Balance, he was (erroneously) heckled as "Mr. Ozone".

Times have changed. Looking back, I think we may conclude that 2006 was the year climate change reached the mainstream.

After only four weeks in popular distribution, Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth is the third biggest documentary on record. And it hasn't even been released in the UK yet.

Keep up the good work, Al. And keep offsetting those promotional flights.

(Link to Carbon Clear Homepage)

Intro - Climate Change and Carbon Offsets

I thought I’d start out by describing what carbon offsets are meant to do.

In 1896, Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish chemist, suggested that CO2 acts like the glass of a greenhouse, trapping some of the sun’s heat close to the earth’s surface. Other gases like water vapour and methane also have this effect. The more of these “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere, the more heat gets trapped. Since Arrhenhius’s time, human activity has dramatically increased the concentration of greenhouse gases, and 2005 was the warmest year since records began. So far.

This is a problem mainly because people and nature don't adapt very easily to climate change impacts. For example, shrinking glaciers can mean that water supply and flood patterns don't match the needs of our farms and cities. If a river crosses borders, these floods and shortages often lead to conflict.

What can we do about it? Well, we can slow global warming by putting less CO2 and other gases into the atmosphere. We can also try to increase the amount that gets absorbed by the forests and oceans. More about those options in the coming days and weeks.

I want to make one main point today.

Greenhouse gases spread pretty evenly throughout the lower atmosphere. So burning coal anywhere will help increase CO2 levels everywhere. And capturing methane from a landfill anywhere will slow net emissions growth everywhere. From a global point of view, it doesn’t matter much where we clean up our global warming pollution. Just so long as we do it, quickly. We need to keep global CO2 levels from rising too fast.

That’s what offsets are all about. At Carbon Clear, we work with people to reduce climate change pollution. Since the reductions can happen anywhere, you can reduce some of your emissions at home, and some by investing in CO2 clearing projects that provide jobs and improve living conditions in poor communities.

Again, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to reduce your own pollution directly. We’ll be coming back to this topic and would like your suggestions on how you can reduce what you can.

(Link to Carbon Clear Homepage)

Wednesday, 16 August 2006


Welcome to the official Carbon Clear blog! Carbon Clear was formed to help people reduce their global warming impact. We want this to be a place where you can share news and opinions about efforts to tackle climate change. Stop by often for posts on what everyday people and companies are doing about global warming, and discuss what you can do. Of course, we’ll also give you the latest updates on what’s going on with the Carbon Clear team and constantly request your feedback.

There’s a lot of good work going on around the world, so we’re relying on you to help us learn about it and spread the word. Send your posts and links to "blog at carbon-clear dot com".