Updated: Mar 8
With our continual talk of reducing GCIL’s carbon footprint I have been doing some more research on the validity of voluntary carbon “offsets”. There are many things that I have read that have convinced me that this is not a way to “offset” your footprint but instead is a way to wipe away your eco guilt.
With prices ranging from $1 to $47 for a ton of carbon I already am wondering why there are so many discrepancies. There are also many companies using different calculations for your footprint on their websites. The voluntary market has made me feel that this industry is exactly that, an industry. At the bottom line it is a way for companies to make a profit off people trying to wipe away their eco guilt.
These offsets come with no rules in the US. There are no enforcements or regulations proving the environmental claims of the offset sellers, no way of measuring the offsets being sold, and no guarantees that projects or planted trees will be finished or projects being continued long enough for the offsets to be valid. For example, in 2007 the Vatican paid a company named Klimfa to offset their footprint to be the first carbon neutral sovereign state. They were given a offset certificates stating they were carbon neutral and the Vatican was praised for their actions. This was all found to be a scam by the Monitor and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, where the “forest” in rural Hungary was supposed to planted there was not a single tree. Obviously the Vatican was extremely embarrassed and brought on a legal backing in order to protect their image after the information became public.
It is also not taken into consideration the carbon emissions that are emitted to plant a forest of trees. You may be able to pay a quick fee to offset your flight by paying towards a tree being planted but the saplings must be bought and driven to a central location, the plot must be cleared by a bulldozer and/or with other machinery, and all the soil and water transportation that emits more carbon. There are more emissions produced than meet the eye on all of the offset projects that are not considered in the full footprint.
Many carbon offset projects have been found to be falsified as well. For example, a company was selling carbon offsets claiming that it would be funding a wind farm. This was a false claim as the production of the wind farm had already begun and would have been built regardless of the offset funding. This also was happening in Israel with a charity that was selling offsets claiming they would plant trees to match these offsets. This charity had been planting the same amount of trees every year for 60 years, so these aren’t actually offsets- nothing had changed. Each of these examples were found in the investigative report that found the Vatican’s offsets to be a scam.
While I have not been fully convinced that the voluntary offset market is all a scam, it is clearly being taken advantage of by people making false claims, offering invalid offsets, all in an effort to make some quick cash. I still fully believe it is a way for people to wipe away their eco guilt. I believe that carbon offsets should only be bought, especially by a company, after all measures are taken to reduce carbon emissions. Or else you are not reducing your carbon at all, you are simply paying it off.
I think there is a much deeper lesson in carbon offsetting in the form of paying off your guilt or problems. This behavior is one I am not a supporter of as it has caused much corruption and continues the bad behavior of believing that if you have money you can hide anything you have done. We must look deeper into every consideration before blindly throwing money to an offset and saying GCIL is carbon-neutral hooray! Because are we actually helping anything or are we wiping away our eco guilt.