Monday, 26 February 2007

Part of the Solution

When EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas announced bold new CO2 reduction targets for the European Union, he stated that only 2/3 of those reductions would come from in-house measures. Fully 1/3 would come from carbon offsets. This should not be a surprise.

At Carbon Clear we know that people want to take responsibility for their actions. When it comes to climate change, this means reducing your own CO2 emissions as much as possible. That's why we provide advice to help people reduce energy use at home, promote alternatives to solo driving, and encourage them to think twice before flying. We also help companies understand their climate change impact and find ways to change their carbon-intensive operations.

But climate change is too important to fight with one hand tied behind our collective backs. It will be a few years before drastically improved public transport schemes, zero-carbon homes, and low-carbon vehicles are in widespread use. And the UN says we simply don't have time to wait.

Short of living in a tent and growing all your own food, it may be very difficult or expensive for you to cut the last four or five tonnes of CO2 out of your life. In another part of the world, the cost to achieve that same reduction might be much lower, but poverty and lack of awareness keep people from taking action.

Offsets provide the money and technical assistance to make those reductions happen. You may not be able to take the last five tonnes of CO2 out of your life, but you can help take them out of someone else's life. In either case, that's five fewer tonnes of CO2 released. The benefit to the environment is the same as if you'd done it yourself. Next year, as the cost of energy efficiency at home goes down, you can reduce more and offset less.

Offsetting is a practice endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the world's governments, climate scientists and policy experts. It's not the entire answer to climate change - we all need to reduce our own emissions as well. But it's an important part of the puzzle.