Carbon offset schemes not working, says holiday firm

BBCNews.com
28 November 2009

Consumer carbon offset schemes do not lead people to change their behaviour, the first holiday firm to run such a scheme has argued.

Responsible Travel said they were a “distraction” from climate change’s real urgency and is ending its scheme.

Such schemes involve individuals paying a premium for the emissions generated by certain choices, such as flying.

The International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance says offsetting has an impact, but governments must do more.

Carbon offset schemes also cover things like choosing to drive a car or choices around the way homes are heated.

‘Assuage your guilt’

Money raised under the schemes is used to pay for carbon reduction projects in developing countries, such as installing solar power or capturing methane gas released by farm animals.

Some environmentalists argue that while these schemes bring some benefit, offsetting has not changed people’s behaviour enough and emissions covered by such schemes should be avoided in the first place.

Justin Francis, founder of Responsible Travel, said: “It’s perceived as this magic pill, this get out of jail free card if you like, that means you don’t need to change your behaviour.

“You can go on flying just as much as you were before, you can run your hotel the way you were before, but through this magic pill somehow you can assuage your guilt.

“We need to be reducing the amount we pollute and I think carbon offsetting is a distraction from that.”

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