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Carbon Offsetting - What It Is And Does It Really Work?

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

Carbon offsetting has become the hot new way for individuals and companies to reduce their environmental footprint. But does carbon offsetting really make a difference, or is it just an excuse to avoid more active climate change solutions? In this blog post we explore whether carbon offsetting can truly help mitigate our contribution towards global warming - so read on and find out!

What is carbon offsetting?


Carbon offsetting is an approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2). It works by investing in projects that reduce emissions or capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The most common type of project involves planting trees, which absorb CO2 from the air and store it. Other offsets include renewable energy projects such as wind farms, solar power plants, and geothermal energy projects or methane combustion/collection.



How Does Carbon Offsetting Work?

The process of carbon offsetting begins with measuring how much CO2 you are responsible for producing. This is done by looking at your personal, business and/or organisational activities and calculating how much CO2 they produce each year. Once you have determined your total CO2 output, you can then invest in a project designed to reduce or capture those same emissions. The investment goes toward funding the project’s development, such as planting new trees or building a new wind farm. In exchange for your investment, you receive carbon credits for the amount of CO2 reduced or captured by the project. These credits can be used to offset your own emissions or sold on a marketplace to other organisations looking to reduce their own emissions. One carbon credit is equivalent to one tonne of CO2 removal or reduction from the atmosphere.


Why Do We Need Carbon Offsetting?

Some perceive carbon offsetting as an important tool in our fight against climate change because it helps us reduce our impact on the environment while still allowing us to continue with our day-to-day activities that we sometimes can’t avoid. Some argue that without carbon offsetting, there would be no way for us to effectively combat global warming without dramatically cutting back on our fossil fuel use—something that most people are unwilling or unable to do at this time. By investing in carbon offsets, we can support renewable energy sources while also helping to mitigate our own contributions to rising global temperatures. When done right, carbon offsetting can work, but can we rely on this strategy alone? The simple answer is no.


The Problem With Carbon Offsetting


Carbon offset projects can appear to be a quick fix for emissions reduction, however this fast-track approach doesn't address the root of climate pollution. Without directly tackling leading sources such as fossil fuel usage these methods are merely temporary solutions whose impact often falls short of expectations. Leading environmental organisations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and WWF-UK have echoed and reinforced these concerns, warning against an overreliance on carbon offsets that could potentially mask ongoing negative effects from unchecked greenhouse gas production.

Some even consider carbon offsetting a form of greenwashing. Greenwashing with carbon offsetting happens when a business invests in carbon credits while having minimal efforts to reduce its in-house emissions, double-counting the credits or investing in non-verified credits.


 

Carbon offsetting is an important tool in combating climate change because it allows us to continue with some unavoidable day-to-day activities while still doing something productive about global warming. By measuring our CO2 output and investing in verified projects designed to reduce or capture those same emissions, we can help make a difference. However, it’s important to remember that carbon offsetting is only a complementary strategy and individuals/businesses should be focusing on a real reduction of their carbon footprint through changing their habits or processes.


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