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Carbon offsetting

18th May 2009 — Offsets or greenwash

First of all, I have to point out that carbon offsets appear to be controversial. Many people seem to believe that carbon offsetting is fraudulent greenwash. As far as I can see the doubters are an alliance of cynics, who believe the whole environmental movement will be exposed as a fraud, and green fundamentalists who believe that we should all live in caves. I cannot join the first group with a clear conscience and the second can only be right if a large part of the world’s population is to die first. I see carbon offsetting as a means to get to an end. However a degree of scepticism is fair enough. There are well documented cases of greenwash and much valid criticism of many aspects of the Kyoto. For these reasons I find it pointless for a company to adopt a carbon neutral policy (or indeed any ethical policy), unless it also sets out to be completely open and transparent about implementation. Anyway I got a list of approved carbon offsetting companies from DEFRA. Some of these companies were charging about £600 to do an audit. I do not think that sort of flat fee can be right for my business as we are just setting up at the moment. One other thing – our first carbon offset bill is retrospective covering the period before the company was set up. As such we cannot claim a penny of it as a business expense.

21st May 2009 — The sad bad news

Having got a list of the family’s flights from my wife, I was able to fill in the carbon calculator on the PURE website for real. I needed to edit some details but the PURE website could not cope with this. I had to delete everything and start again. Anyway it was pretty bad news:

Your carbon footprint is 21.44 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Your footprint is heavier than the UK average of 9.96 tonnes per year.
Your Carbon Footprint10.470.1010.87
National Average (tonnes of CO2)4.531.623.81

I was able to pay £246.59 (less than it could have been as I am a taxpayer) to offset this. We know we need to fix the house at the very least. Our 1940’s building is fairly inefficient from an insulation point of view and the boiler is not of the modern condensing variety.

25th May 2009 — Fine fees or fee fiends

This morning the BBC had an edition of Start the week with Michael Sandel as a guest. Carbon offsetting was given as an example of how some systems designed to influence behaviour can fail, because they become interpreted as buying the right to continue to misbehave. I think I can quote from memory:

I think it’s better to buy a carbon offset if one drives a humvee, let’s say a gas–guzzling car, then to pay no heed at all to global warming. However the danger is that it makes the humvee morally acceptable.

I had never thought of it like this before, but my concern is that criticising carbon offsets leaves no alternative route to get to a less polluting world. Fine based systems (if indeed they are not simply viewed as fee based systems) are less likely to find acceptance.

31st April 2010 — Another year

This has been a year starting out. As a family we offset 6.68 tonnes at a cost of £99.33. We did however manage to upgrade our boiler to a more modern variety. As a company we made a donation of £50 to PURE.

26th April 2011 — Anni praeteriti

Another year has passed. As a family we offset 9.62 tonnes at a cost of £157.04 for travel, which includes a number of weddings and funerals. Our energy use is offset separately and amounted to about 5 tonnes. As a company we also made a donation of £50 to PURE.

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