What is Carbon Offsetting?

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    Guide Author

    James Longley

    Managing Director

    min read
    Last Updated August 10, 2022

    What Is Carbon Offsetting, and Does It Really Work?

    It’s become clearer and clearer that tackling climate change isn’t just something governments and legislation alone can change. Any commitment to avert a potential environmental disaster requires significant buy-in from businesses.

    However, this has raised something of a dilemma – how do organisations reduce greenhouse gas emissions while continuing to maintain productivity and financial performance, but without impacting employment opportunities?

    The answer for many must be to turn to carbon offsetting schemes. Some of the world’s most recognised brands purchase carbon offsets and invest in environmental schemes on an annual basis. But what is carbon offsetting? Is it really that effective? Or is it simply a form of greenwashing?

    What Is a Carbon Offset Project?

    Carbon offsetting projects usually fall into one of four categories:

    Forestry and Conservation: This could involve regrowing, replanting, or protecting trees around the world. It’s an activity that’s popular because trees can effectively soak up CO2, while the forests, jungles and rainforests protect and serve as a habitat for vital ecosystems.

    Rewilding also falls into the conservation category. It sees animals and plant life reintroduced to ecosystems, with the hope that they’ll bring biodiversity and a natural rhythm to the landscape, which will in turn help to repair any damage.

    Renewable Energy: Solar, hydro and wind power generation sites are used to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels – all while generating substantial amounts of energy and creating jobs in the process.

    Waste to Energy: Its title says it all really – these schemes are all about turning waste into electricity. So, this could mean capturing gas from landfill sites or using human and agricultural waste to generate valuable energy. The knock-on effect of this is that it can help with conservation efforts – because the waste sources replace firewood.

    Community-Focussed Initiatives: These projects normally focus on lesser developed countries and aim to introduce technologies and methods that help communities to become more energy efficient. Additionally, these initiatives can also help to boost living conditions.

    Is Carbon Offsetting Effective?

    Although all these activities can be seen as positive, carbon offsetting has its critics. Some quarters have argued that these initiatives don’t necessarily offset the carbon being emitted by businesses – i.e., it’s not a one-for-one solution.

    Greenpeace, in particular, has argued these schemes, while by no means bad, they aren’t really doing what they’re advertised to do. It’s said one of the biggest initiatives, planting trees, can’t have the same impact as slashing carbon emissions.

    However, others, like Climate Care’s Robert Stevens, have said they feel businesses paying to reduce an equivalent amount of carbon emissions is probably the most cost-effective, fastest, and most efficient way of trying to tackle the issue.

    There’s a balance. Is carbon offsetting greenwashing? If it’s treated as a PR exercise to boost brand reputation in the public eye, potentially. It’s something that needs to go hand-in-hand with a genuine effort to reduce carbon emissions as part of a thought-out strategy.

    More from Utility Bidder

    Looking to reduce your organisation’s carbon footprint? Switching to a 100% renewable energy source can help. Here, at Utility Bidder, we have access to the best green business energy deals on the market. You can get a quote in a matter of minutes with our price comparison tool. Or, if you’d prefer, speak to one of our energy specialists by calling 0800 007 4001.

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