Travel company: carbon offsets don’t work

November 9, 2009 at 5:55 am Leave a comment

A British travel agent has said it will no longer offer its customers carbon offsets because they are a diversion from dealing with climate change.

The company, Responsibletravel.com, made the announcement via its website on October 16. It said: “We believe that offsetting distracts from the real issues — that is we all need to be reducing our carbon emissions as much as possible. Offsetting flights has too often been seen as an opportunity to go on flying the same amount or more.”

Managing director Justin Francis said the travel industry wrongly used offsets to justify expanding its operations.

He said: “Carbon offsets distract tourists from the need to reduce their emissions. They create a ‘medieval pardon’ for us to carry on behaving in the same way (or worse).”

Carbon offsets rely on the idea that a consumer, or a large company, can pay someone else to cut emissions on their behalf. Rather than encouraging the biggest polluting nations to reduce carbon pollution, it encourages poor countries to make the cuts instead.

The company was among the first to offer carbon offsets to its customers in 2002. It claims it is now among the first to drop offsets on ecological grounds.

“Carbon offsetting is an ingenious way to avoid genuinely reducing your carbon emissions”, Francis told the November 7 Independent. “It’s a very attractive idea — that you can go on living exactly as you did before when there’s a magic pill … out there that allows people to continue polluting.”

Carbon offsetting is now a multi-billion dollar industry. The Independent said about half of the European Union’s projected emissions cuts by 2020 will be made up of offsets.

In Australia, the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, due to be voted upon in parliament this month, will allow companies to meet 100% of their emission targets with carbon offsets bought from projects in the global South.

Francis said he was convinced by a June report on carbon offsets by Friends of the Earth (FoE).

The report said: “Offsetting does not work and will not work. Offsetting does not lead to promised additional emissions cuts in developing countries; it delays essential structural change in developed-country economies; and it institutionalises the idea of cuts in either the north or the south, when science demands reductions in both.

FoE called offsetting a “dangerous distraction” which should be abandoned because it “is profoundly unjust, fundamentally flawed and cannot be reformed”.

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Entry filed under: Carbon offsets.

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