Carbon offsets can be good and bad

An article by George Monbiot, pointing out the mis-use of carbon offsetting by multinationals, only shows one side of the coin. (“Carbon offsetting is not warding off environmental collapse”, 26 January, The Guardian).

In my 25 years working to save CO2 I avoided offsets because of two big issues:  1) Failed offsets, such as forest plantations dying, and 2) Future offsetse.g. claiming that a flight to New York today is offset by planting trees which take 50 years to absorb the same amount of CO2.

However, we do need a way to fund the draw-down of excess CO2 in the atmosphere (estimated at up to 1 trillion tonnes) in time to avert climate change.  To do this, sequestration activities need the rapid injection of cash that offsetting can provide.  And genuine, timebound offsets are now available.

There are offsets on the market which make false claims.  But there are certification schemes to deal with failed offsets and there are now offsets that only count CO2 absorbed in the current year.  Whether they pay to insulate schools, thereby cutting energy use overnight, replace wood stoves with solar stoves in Africa, or finance British farmers to adopt low carbon practices, offsets are essential to reach net zero.

The question is not whether offsets are good or bad, but which offsets are the good ones.


Mukti Mitchell,

Director, Carbon Savvy