Sunday, July 15, 2007

Green With Guilt

'Carbon offsets: flawed and failing to combat climate change' reads the headline in the Sunday Herald - now there's a surprise! Apparently all those trees everyone is planting are not enough and are failing to save the planet. Estimates used by British Airways to offset pollution from air travel were also described as being too low. And trees planted in Britain to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may prove ineffective. According to the chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland. "Carbon offsetting is more about salving one's conscience than solving the problem of climate change." Well I've always said this whole thing is about guilt.

One of the carbon offset firms, Climate Care, has a deal with British Airways but it seems estimates of the impact of pollution, and how much to pay for it, vary. Climate Care itself quotes £39.79 to offset emissions from a return flight from London to Adelaide in Australia. But BA's online emissions calculator, provided by Climate Care, says that offsetting the same flight will only cost £27.58. The problem is that BA does not accept that emissions from planes are as damaging as experts say. Climate Care's founder, Mike Mason, said he wished BA would change its mind. I bet he does!

Over on the Airline Confidential I wrote about this last week saying. Two Dutch companies active in the carbon offset business, Trees for Travel and Greenseat, have reported that 110,000 people will off-set their flights by investing in environmental projects in 2007.

Now I assume this means, in the main, planting trees. Let's just assume that 110,000 passengers plant ten trees each, that's over a million trees. Last year over 4 billion passengers took to the skies. Let's just say that 20% of them through guilt, a love of the environment or some other reason decided to plant ten trees - that's 8 billion little trees!

Where are they going to plant them? More to the point who’s going to plant them? Every other newspaper add would be - Wanted, tree planter. As someone pointed out to me recently, carbon offsets could be the new Amway.

On Channel Four at 8pm on Monday night Dispatches has more about the "Great Green Smoke Screen" .

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