Carbon offsetting is an abstract concept – the distance between environmental impact and mitigation activity means that the benefits of undertaking offsetting aren’t always obvious. But climate change isn’t obvious – why is it that seemingly harmless actions taken decades ago are unpicking our society at the seams?
Carbon offsetting is the process of investing in schemes that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, typically in proportion to your own emissions/environmental impact. From planting trees to investing in renewable energy capacity, there are many ways to do it. Below are some of the likely reasons that may lead you to offset, and some reasons why you wouldn’t…
Things that might lead you to offset
· Understanding how the greenhouse affect works. Gases that enter our atmosphere stay there for a long time, decades when it comes to our most commonly emitted greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. Human activity is resulting in the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere far more rapidly than they are removed by natural processes. This lag and accumulation means that even if we reduce the amount of greenhouses gasses we emit, they are still accumulating in the atmosphere. The only chance we have at curbing climate change to a manageable level is reduce our emissions, to ZERO, and then actively take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
· The risks of an unstable climate to society. Climate change is not a linear process, there are natural checks and switches in our climate system that both amplify and hinder global warming. Our climate is warming as a result of human activity (by one degree so far), but there will come a point where human impact is no longer the dominant driver. This could warm our climate by up to eight degrees by the end of the century. This level of warming is completely incompatible with society in its current form – the impacts would be global, catastrophic and incomparable.
· Understanding your impact. If you’ve measured either your organisational, production or personal carbon footprint, you will have discovered that (with much generalising) 50% of it will come from power used, 25% of it will come from transport, 20% the food eaten and 5% the stuff bought. In short, we cannot recycle our way out of climate change, even if we make all the changes we can – an enormous percentage remains beyond our control. If we want to keep on living (and that is precisely the name of the game), additional activity is required.
albert’s position and recommendation: albert is working to support film and TV to transition to zero-impact operations, this will require large scales changes at both industry and individual levels. The industry is working towards this long term objective but must take responsibility for its impact in the interim period, however long or short it may be.
Considerations and things to make your peace with
We are where we are. Carbon offsetting is an abstract concept, ideally action would have been taken long ago, rendering the process unnecessary. But that doesn’t make the need for action any less necessary or urgent. We must not forget our long term objective of a zero-impact industry. So if you plan to offset your footprint and forget about your impact, then perhaps offsetting isn’t for you.
Carbon factors (the numbers behind foot printing) are based on averages. Carbon offsetting is an in-exact science. Perhaps that makes it all the more important to invest in a scheme you feel passionate about anyway, be that UK woodland or Amazon biodiversity.
There is not enough land on earth to plant enough trees to offset humanities carbon footprint. We must take action to reduce it as well. But when the natural environment is so linked to human health, it is in our long-term interest to restore it and offsetting is a way to do this.
If smugness does not suffice, you are going to have to create your own satisfaction for undertaking a cash-parting, intangible activity. Tweet about it, put it in your annual report or ask you friend to pat you on the back.
HOW TO OFFSET…
Hold UP! Things are more fun together and carbon offsetting is no different. Working together we can make better decisions, meet nice people, make more noise and offset more carbon for our money. We are holding offset clubs every 6 months, if you want to come and play, complete steps one and two, then email firstname.lastname@example.org
1) The first thing to do is to measure your impact. If you’re measuring a production, use our carbon calculator, if you’re a company then download DEFRA’s carbon factors and measure your impact (or get in touch, we might be able to help you). If you want to offset your individual carbon footprint, use WWF’s personal carbon calculator estimator or for a personal individual activity, use an online tool, like calculator.carbonfootprint.com.
2) Next decide how much of what you’ve measured you want to offset (just the flights, everything or what your budget will allow). Costs vary from between £4-£14 per tonne depending on the scheme.
3) Next you need decide what scheme you want to invest in. Renewables are the cheapest kind of carbon offset and re-afforestation is at the top end, with projects in the UK/EU costing the most. It is important to choose the type of scheme of you feel passionate about – if feel passionately that it’s about getting the job done quickly then choose renewables or perhaps you want to fix other issues along the way, like biodiversity then you should consider a forest-based project.
4) Lastly, find a company you want to work with. Similar projects run by different companies won’t vary much in cost, so there’s not too much need to shop around. We like the people at the Woodland Trust, Mossy Earth, Natural Capital Partners and the World Land Trust.
5) Lastly, smile. Please. You’ve done a good thing. Tell your communications team, tell a friend (to buy you a drink). It’s time to celebrate and share.
Pssst… If you offset with a UK project you can’t claim to be ‘carbon neutral’. This is boring but a result of our country’s laws and climate pledges. However, if you are only offsetting travel, this won’t apply anyway. And who cares, you’re sucking the same amount of carbon anyway…