Energy Live News reported that the UK government was inviting views on whether companies selling travel tickets (flights, trains etc) should offer additional Carbon Offsets so consumers can choose to compensate when they book. The benefits of the trading would be to encourage carbon absorbing projects, such as planting trees or installing solar panels to offset the journeys made.
Back in time
This news has echoes of the early days of Carbon Offsetting that boomed in the early 2000s and lost respect from the audiences who rightly questioned the projects credibility and carbon benefit.
In 2007 a spoof website called Cheatneutral.com (now closed) was set up to make fun of Carbon Offsetting. Cheatneutral allowed people to pay fees to carry on cheating while funding “monogamy-boosting offset projects”. In effect, paying someone else to stay faithful. A spoof video clip still exists that’s worth a watch. Cheatneutral YouTube Video.
The Cheatneutral creators’ point is that collective progress is delayed in reducing carbon by offsetting. This similar point of ‘delaying progress’ connects with the views of the campaigners such as Extinction Rebellion and Dr Klein Salamon who argue that movements (like Carbon Trading), albeit well intentioned, have been too slow and have created ‘carbon gradualism’ that’s just not sufficient to prevent climate change. They would argue that climate change needs more assertive action such as reducing air travel.
So, what’s the best option?
As far as I know, no generation has sought less over the previous generation. Each generation wants more than the last and greater travel is one of those key freedoms. Therefore, restricting freedom to travel is a non-starter in a free market economy and Carbon Trading may be the only fair way to balance usage and mitigate the impact. The only problem is how this trade-off is ‘valued’ and whether those offsets really do compensate for the emissions created.
Haydn Young is an independent energy management expert and founder of The Energy Club.
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