Tue, Nov 12, 2019 - Page 9 News List

‘Greta Thunberg effect’ driving growth in carbon offsetting

Non-governmental organizations reported fourfold increases in investments in carbon-reducing projects in developing countries

By Sandra Laville  /  The Guardian

Illustration: Yusha

Growing concern about the climate crisis and the “Greta Thunberg effect” are driving huge increases in individuals and businesses choosing to offset their emissions by investing in carbon-reducing projects in developing countries.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and organizations involved in carbon offsetting have seen as much as a fourfold increase in investment from people who want to try to mitigate their carbon footprints.

Agencies who work with large corporations have also seen a spike in investment in carbon offsetting over the past 18 months.

ClimateCare, a company which provides programs to help organizations offset residual carbon emissions, has seen the amount of carbon offset increase from about 2 million tonnes to 20 million tonnes in that time, chief executive Edward Hanrahan said.

Smaller organizations have also seen massive spikes in offsetting.

Caroline Pomeroy, director of NGO Climate Stewards, which offsets emissions for individuals and small businesses, said income from individuals offsetting had increased by 156 percent year on year, and that there has been an 80 percent increase in income from businesses and charities offsetting.

Offsetting means calculating emissions and then purchasing equivalent “credits” from projects that prevent or remove the emissions of an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases elsewhere.

Carbon offsetting has been controversial, with some critics saying it allows big polluters and individuals to buy carbon credits in exchange for a clean conscience while continuing to fly, drive and use fossil fuels.

However, in the past 10 years, highly regulated global carbon and renewable energy markets have been created and participating companies and NGOs are now theoretically held to international standards by independent verifiers.

The organization Gold Standard was set up by environment group WWF and other NGOs to ensure the integrity of projects that reduced carbon emissions, and to ensure they contribute to sustainable development.

“Everyone should be looking to reduce their emissions as much as possible first, but for most of us it is impossible at this time to reduce them to zero, so taking accountability and financing the reduction in emissions somewhere else in the world is a way to accelerate the path to a low-carbon economy,” Gold Standard communications director Sarah Leugers said.

Hanrahan said large organizations were being driven to be responsible for not only the emissions that they created as a company, but also so-called “Scope 3 emissions” from the use of their products, by a combination of consumer pressure and governments pushing for corporations to become more accountable for their impact on the climate.

Leugers said transformative projects were those that improved cooking facilities in the developing world, for example by providing biogas stoves and projects that improved access to clean water, thus reducing greenhouse gases from burning firewood to boil water.

“These are life-changing for people in the developing world and have real impact on reducing carbon emissions,” she said.

Gold Standard has seen a fourfold increase in income from individuals and small businesses paying for carbon offsets through its platform.

“People are willing to take action and are looking for ways to take action. We see it as a way that someone can feel empowered and reduce their carbon footprint,” Leugers said.

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