Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Self Flagellation and Carbon Offsets

I just read a post on the Low Carbon Kid blog about certification of carbon offsets.

The fact that it approached what is a very valuable project from a very negative angle prompted me to leave the following comments. I have been thinking about offsets for some time, here are my current thoughts. This will be controversial. But i`m not into popularity contests, there is serious work to be done in tackling climate change!

Responses wellcome.

Carbon offsets. A grey issue where businesses are saying, ohh this is great, a great way to save the environment and make money...then just making money, and where environmentalists get all het up and anti-capitalist.

A dose of rationality anyone?

Surely the rational response to a flexible system for taking responsibility for your emissions is to make sure the emissions really are offset i.e to regulate not to bitch about people not getting it?

What exactly are we meant to get? If i am volunteering to pay so that clean energy can be subsidised over coal or energy efficient measure can be put in place then what is wrong with that?

Regulations can rule out land use offsets (preferably) or demand insurance to guarantee permanence. If a good energy efficient project is done to a high standard then the uncertainty should be relatively low...therefore you can buy 50% more offset and know that it is very likely that you are at least carbon neutral and probably carbon negative!

To describe offsetting from a different angle. You could offset your own emissions. Chose your budget, then if you seem to be getting near that limit you spend enough money to ensure you will stay bellow the limit. Perhaps to much driving leads to a few hundred pounds in loft insulation.

Now if you live in a new house then saving might be costly but perhaps your neighbour has a draughty house, wouldn't it make sense to buy them the insulation or draft stripping and save more energy for less cost? Perhaps even CFL's?

Make this bigger, why not go wherever the price of mitigation is cheapest, as long as the scheme is verifiable and fair to the people affected then why is it wrong?

Is environmentalism about self-flagellation or progress?

Quite frankly, if people verifiably offset there emissions then YES they are not climate criminals by flying! They are not harming the climate so what right do you as a climate activist have to criticise them?
Rant over, i have never been entirely in line with what you say but i have been at a stage where i wouldn't fly because i was uncertain of the issues. That is over, i`m clear now, there was no reason for this other then social mores within the environmental movement. I don't have plans to fly anywhere but would feel quite happy to do so as long as i take my responsibility for the climate seriously and verify a good climate offset project.

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At 6:40 PM, Blogger Calvin Jones said...

In response to my comments:

Succinctly, it's because if you take contraction and convergence seriously

I Do

and believe the stats on how much we need to reduce total emissions (Aubrey Meyer says by 90% by 2050, not 50%), you need to do the loft insulation, and turn down the thermostat, and cycle, and not fly and stop buying needless stuff.

You list each of the things that we can do but don't mention carbon offsets. This is bizarre because if you buy good quality carbon offsets then you could either do all the things that you suggest OR the carbon offset. Taking your arguments gist i think you mean we (humanity) need to use all options. Carbon offsets would be impossible if this was the case globally as offsets could not be 'adittional', this would be great. However, it is not the case.

You could--and seem to be-- arguing not that we take responsibility for our emissions but for the entire mitigation potential that we are capable of? The dichotomy therefore being low impact life plus offsets vs low impact life or offsets which are comparable.

This is not an argument for do no harm but an argument for not standing aside whilst others suffer. This is the nature of your argument, take it on if you like but i don't think that serious change can be made on this basis. This adittional step from ethical (minimum for a livable society) to moral (complex and personal beliefs) is a step to far. Individuals may act morally, but for a society and business adherence to ethical standards is probably as far as it is useful to go.

How many people do you know buying good qaulity carbon offsets for emissions they havent been responsible for?

Using words like self-flagellation is cry-baby nonsense. We have to end the "I want it now" culture.

I`m not sure what the I want it now culture is but i do know that travel is great for broadening peoples views and good fun!

You can't have your cake and eat it - not this one - it's too big. That's the logical response to the stats and projections. We have to stop pretending to people. but they won't listen of course until there's a catastrophe, which is what my original Catch-23 blog post says.

I think we need to aim for a carbon constrained world where everything is being done and carbon offsets are impossible. I am off to a meeting next month to discuss promoting C&C. In the mean time, i will fail to see a convincing argument for anything other than stringent regulation of carbon offsets. We have so much to ain from this market if done properly, and it has a chance in hell of brining substantial solid returns.


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