The errors and opportunities of Carbon Offsetting

Carbon Offsetting is currently a contentious topic, with its validity and effectiveness being questioned.

Carbon offsetting is a contentious topic right now and, let‘s be honest, there is definite room for improvement within the industry.

Firstly, there are a lot of carbon offsetting projects out there that are making bogus claims about removing carbon from the environment. At best, these projects are in fact avoiding future carbon emissions rather than removing carbon from the environment, making their claims misleading. At worst they are not even doing that.

There have been multiple stories of projects that make lofty claims about carbon removal but, when inspected carefully, are not actually removing any carbon at all. For example; investing in deforestation protection from woodland that was never under threat to begin with (JP Morgan, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association – I’m looking at you).

What makes this even more worrying is the fact that some organisations look at carbon offsetting as a “licence to emit”. In other words, offsetting gives them a false sense of being able to increase their carbon emissions as long as they offset enough to become “net zero”. If carbon is not being removed from the atmosphere as promised by offsetting vendors, it can lead to even more carbon emissions than if nothing is done.  

Of course, there are other common issues with offsetting projects as well such as a lack of transparency and lack of regulation.

However, that’s not to say that carbon offsetting isn’t worth exploring. By coupling the right carbon removal projects with steps to reduce emissions, organisations and individuals can reach positive outcomes, such as:  

Helping the environment: Despite my earlier pessimism, there are indeed many legitimate ways corporations can help the environment through offsetting. Whether this involves regulated reforestation, permanent carbon capture & storage, or investing in more technologically advanced projects such as renewable energy initiatives, offsetting can have a real lasting impact.

Accelerating innovation: As demand (and associated investment) increases in these fields, so does innovation. As an example, carbon capture is currently expensive but in an open market, projects competing with each other will constantly be looking at faster and cheaper technologies. This will help the scientific understanding and manufacturing processes involved. 

Achieving global unity: It’s clear that everyone must take responsibility for their carbon emissions. We all live on the same planet and are in a common war against climate change, individuals and corporations alike. Brands who fail to do their part in this fight will be regarded negatively or accused of the ultimate crime – greenwashing.  

Would you like to know more about Carbon Offsetting? Take a look at this webinar we had the other day with our friends at Klimate where we discussed how banks can provide impactful offsetting to banking customers.