Dave's eco-nomics: Carbon offsetting

GREEN ALERT

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The heat, it seems, is on. In June, Lord Stern calculated that the cost of averting catastrophic climate change had doubled since his landmark green report of 2006. It would now cost 2% of the world's GDP. For some, the answer is carbon offsets. Credits are bought by businesses to 'reset' their footprint, with the money funding emission-reduction projects in the developing world - like tree-planting and wind farms. Yet critics compare this system to papal indulgences, with companies continuing to 'sin' and simply absolving their guilt by flashing their cash around. Not surprisingly, the green crowd remains unconvinced.

ACTION PLAN

Look into offset as part of a wider effort. New Land Rovers come with the first 45,000 miles offset as part of the price. The extra money goes into hydropower in Tajikistan, wind energy in China, and energy-efficient stoves in Uganda. Charities like Global Trees can help firms go carbon-neutral by planting saplings. Make sure your carbon offset company has accreditation - it's vital that the reduction you've paid for is made, even if a project goes awry. But offsets aren't enough: we have to change our course, not just cover our tracks. As George Monbiot says: 'Buying and selling carbon offsets is like pushing the food around on your plate to create the impression you've eaten it.'

GREENIE POINTS (out of 10)

Five - consider it, but start changing your habits first.

Dave Waller is MT's resident eco-trader.

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