Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting has a mixed reputation. Is it just a way of easing our conscience, or a real & ethical contribution to tackling climate change? Every organisation or individual has a Carbon Footprint. We can ignore this and take no action to tackle the consequences of unavoidable emissions or we can take responsibility for them. Taking responsibility can mean working out just how "unavoidable" those emissions really are - the emissions stemming from our flight to Genoa are, of course, only unavoidable if we choose to take that flight! Having said that, one way of dealing with our own emissions is to ensure that either an equivalent amount of carbon is absorbed, or is avoided being emitted elsewhere. For example, we can finance the planting of trees, the conservation of forests, or the installation of energy efficient or renewable energy systems. The key thing is that it would only count as carbon offset if it wouldn't have happened without our intervention.

We wanted to learn more about carbon offsetting and, in June 2012, held a public meeting with Concern Universal to explore some of the issues. You'll find  documents relating to this meeting at the foot of this page. Clive Caffall and Samson Hailu explained that while there are some schemes which might be little more than a sop to our consciences, there are others which guarantee “cost effectively achieving measurable reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases while generating real value for the communities and nations involved”.

One such scheme is being operated by Concern Universal, and involves the provision of cooking stoves in Malawi which are made locally, sold by local people and which dramatically reduce fuel consumption - with a 1.5 metric tonne per annum reduction of carbon emission for each stove used. On top of this the stove is a much healthier way of cooking than the traditional "three stone method" which is estimated to claim 2 million lives every year. We hope to publish more material relating to this scheme here as it becomes available.