The carbon generated from living our everyday lives is one of the major contributors to climate change. Carbon offset schemes are a method of reducing our impact, by investing money into bodies working to fight climate change. But it is important to first understand what the carbon offset meaning is.
What is Carbon Offsetting?
Carbon offset meaning: actions designed to counteract the emission of carbon dioxide as a result of human activity, especially when traded as part of a commercial scheme.
As we drive to work, watch TV or even purchase food shipped from overseas, we add to our carbon footprints. Our ‘carbon footprint’ is a measure of the emissions we are generating.
Carbon offsetting involves investing in a company that works on reducing those emissions. Firms like Gold Standard allow you to do this, and you can even choose which projects to invest in. This will essentially make your activities carbon neutral.
You can calculate this for every aspect of your life, but more commonly people choose to use a carbon offset scheme for a specific activity like flying. More airlines than ever are now offering customers the opportunity to offset their emissions at checkout. There are also third-party companies available for airlines that do not yet allow you to offset flights.
Another method of reducing emissions is by giving companies a certain number of carbon credits. Their allowance of carbon credits determines how much carbon the company is permitted to emit. Exceeding this limit will result in a fine, as stated by the Paris Agreement. Companies that use less than their allotted carbon credits can sell them in a process called carbon trading. This provides incentives to pollute less.
Carbon Offset Issues
With more companies using carbon offsetting to reduce their carbon footprint, people have been questioning their motives. Claims of “greenwashing” have been making news recently. This is where companies create the public perception that their products are eco-friendly, in order to increase sales. This raises the question as to whether the products we use really are eco-friendly. However, with more strict criteria appearing about how money for carbon offsetting is spent, greenwashing instances should decrease.
One way that money from carbon offsetting is invested is in carbon capture technology. However, as stated in a desmog article, the effectiveness of carbon capture is questionable,
“Carbon capture technologies are inefficient at pulling out carbon, from a climate perspective, and often increase local air pollution from the power required to run them, which exacerbates public health issues. Replacing a coal plant with wind turbines, on the other hand, always decreases local air pollution and doesn’t come with the associated cost of running a carbon capture system”.
The way companies use money generated from carbon offsetting will affect the success of this strategy. Yet, the best strategy is still up for debate.
Carbon offsetting has been a largely successful method of generating awareness of, and reducing our, carbon emissions. But there are issues around greenwashing and the best way of investing the money generated.
Despite the controversies, carbon credits are making companies more responsible for their emissions. While this may not yet be the perfect solution, it is definitely a step in the right direction.