Footprint Blog

The carbon offset delusion of Permits to Pollute

In the latest budget Darling committed to Britain not resorting to carbon offsets to meet its emission reduction targets before 2012. Equally ‘Milliband minor’, as I like to call him, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, last week set out plans for UK emission cuts of 34% by 2022 and at least 80% by 2050, to reduce the threat posed by global warming, according to The Times on Wednesday.

However, ‘Britain may go back on its promise not to buy “permits to pollute” from poor nations’ (carbon offset’s are when one country is financially rewarded to make reductions on behalf of another).

The Times professes to have seen a document outlining that Britain’s plan to cut its carbon dioxide emissions, by more than a third by 2022, could be achieved by buying ‘permits to pollute’ from poor countries rather than genuine reductions in domestic emissions.

The Times claimed on Wednesday ‘A draft copy of the government’s energy strategy, due to be published today, reveals that ministers have considered scrapping a commitment made three months ago intended to prevent the UK from buying so-called offset’s from developing nations. It states that genuine cuts would be preferable, carbon off-sets….should be reserved as an insurance option’.

The article further says that Keith Allot, head of climate change at WWF said that ‘carbon offsetting amounted to little more than an accounting trick…We have a chance to transform the UK economy but that can only be achieved by investing in a green recovery package. If we choose offset’s we are just throwing money into a broken mechanism’.

There are some further facts here; ‘the government is committed by law to a phased reduction in carbon emissions over three five-year periods starting in 2008. From 2013 emissions should be further reduced to 28%, below 1990 levels and a third period, from 2018 should see emissions cut to 34% below 1990 levels’. The government however could get a great deal of the legwork done by investing in wind farms in developing countries like India or could pay a country such as Brazil to, buy ‘avoided deforestation credits’.

Doesn’t this rather remind you of the complicated financial models such as banks selling sub-prime debt to each other? Presumably the Carbon Markets and Investors Association (CMIA) meant exactly this when it commented: ‘Carbon offsets are a sensible and economically rational approach for the UK Government. It is critical to have mechanisms that will allow for financial innovation in the environmental space.’

We have seen enough of financial innovation for a while. We all know how this ended. Furthermore, we are not sure that there is any space for banker’s ‘mechanisims’ in environmental issues!

The bottom line is, we have got to reduce carbon emissions, so let’s get on with it! The British government has got to realise that it has to set an example to industry rather than figure manipulation.

Just to put this into the context of foodservice, it is rather like the big multiple hotel, restaurant and catering groups buying carbon offsets from independent operators rather than trying to cut emissions, so that they continue polluting and draining resources at the benefit of their balance sheet, as if climate change and exploiting natural resources wasn’t a very real problem.

There is something very wrong in this and quite frankly, it’s disturbing!

2 Responses to 'The carbon offset delusion of Permits to Pollute'

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  1. Russell said,

    Global warming is a con. Whether or not it’s happening, mankind has little to do with it and can do nothing about it. But why spoil the wheeze of introducing yet more taxation and regulation over our lives while the likes of Al Gore can realise $billions through his eco-companies … Hmmmmnnn.

  2. foodservicefootprint said,

    Global warming is occuring! The question begs, whether it is part of a cycle or self-inflicted. I furthermore think, mankind can do a great deal to slow it down and creating complicated offset models, is only of concrete help on a spread sheet, presented in statistical format to assist internationally, legally binding reduction of emission targets.

    In the meantime, rather than subscribing to the ‘its all a load of nonsense’ school of thought, the cynics have to actually realise that rather than being taxed and regulated further, there are a number of tax breaks to make your business greener.

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