Thursday, May 31, 2007

Corporate Climate Response: Day 2 (Offsetting)

The emissions from the conference where offset by The Carbon Neutral Company and travel emissions by Climate Care.

Climate Care is one of only two offset providers that i have actually offset with in the past. I like the type of projects that they carry out, i trust them and i like there whole ethos. The Carbon Neutral Company used to be called Future Forests but have now change from this, in part because of the slack that afforestation has received in the UK media and in part because they where becoming overexposed to risks related to replanting forests if anything killed them off. I think that speaks volumes.

There seemed to be very different views coming from the panel, and the audience had some very pointed questions. On the claim being used by some large businesses that they are going CarbonNeutral by virtue of buying green power there was a scathing attack from Mike Mason of Climate Care. There is double counting--Twice!

As these companies are bying green power and then selling the Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) apparent double counting is obvious. Power companies are legally obliged to create a certain amount of green power. The ROCs represent this power, if they are not retired by the company purchasing the green power, then it simply isn't green--no scarcity and absolutely no net effect. This trick has been picked up by many people.

What hasn't been picked up however is a far more subtle kind of double counting. The UK government has emissions targets under the EU ETS. If reductions in the form of offsets are made, the government therefore has to put in fewer green policies! That might mess with your mind a bit but it is a serious concern, if the carbon offsetting business continues to grow then are the government having a free ride on consumers of the offsets? This is clearly only the issue for domestic projects, not those in the developing world but Climate Care would like to do some projects in the UK and DEFRA refused to wipe reduce its carbon budget by the amount being offset in the UK. That is a fascinating story that I have never hear before.
These are details: i have stated in the past that i support well managed carbon offsets and that is still the case. More on carbon offsets later.

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