Carbon offsetting: Questions to ask


There are a few things you should know before you decide to offset your carbon. For a start there are many different organisations offering this service. Some are charities, some are businesses. They have various approaches to calculate carbon emissions often with very different results. Some vary by as much as 300% in calculating the carbon cost of a holiday flight. They’ll also tell you how they’ll offset it for you. They have their own distinct ideas for the best ways of doing that – and usually you’ll have to take their word for it that their projects actually are useful. Some keep a substantial share of the money they receive for their “overheads” and other purposes. One says it retains 40 per cent and you may well think that’s excessive. Remember, this is a market and in many instances it’s not regulated. So make sure your money is well spent.

To help, here are some questions to ask:

Which carbon offset provider should you use?
Does carbon offsetting really work?
Is it just a way of easing your guilt?
How much carbon do you need to offset?
What’s a fair price for the carbon you use?
Where does the money go?
What changes to your lifestyle could you make to reduce your carbon emissions?

More info

To find out more about climate change and carbon offsetting try these links:

British Government information including its UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA). Described as the first assessment of its kind for the UK and the first in a 5 year cycle. Published in January 2012.

The Environmental Change Institute. Oxford University’s Centre for the Environment carries out research about how and why the environment is changing and how public policy, private enterprise, and social initiatives can respond.

New Internationalist magazine ran a special feature on carbon offsetting in July 2006.