Offsetting carbon emissions
Carbon offsetting is a way to balance out your own carbon emissions by supporting projects that reduce carbon elsewhere. The projects are usually based in developing countries and designed to reduce future emissions such as introducing clean energy technologies.
If you choose to offset your carbon emissions, the process starts with buying 'carbon offsets'. For every carbon offset bought, one tonne of carbon dioxide is either removed from the atmosphere, or stopped from ever entering the atmosphere.
If you buy enough offsets, you can balance out the emissions of your carbon footprint to become 'carbon neutral'. Alternatively, you can use offsets to neutralise the impact of a specific activity, such as taking an unavoidable flight. Offset schemes vary in terms of the cost, but on average cost is around £8 per tonnes of CO2. At this price, a typical British family would pay around £45 to neutralise a year's worth of gas and electricity use, while a return flight from London to San Francisco would cost around £20 to offset per person.
To offset all of your carbon emissions and become 'carbon neutral', you'll need to first calculate your carbon footprint.
There are many different carbon offset websites available so the voluntary offset market has developed various standards to help with narrowing down the options. These include the Voluntary Gold Standard (VGS) and the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS). All offset projects with these standards are audited according to the rules laid out in the Kyoto protocol and must also show social benefits for local communities.
Carbon offsetting can be a controversial subject, and on its own, certainly isn't the answer to halting climate breakdown. The best course is to reduce your own emissions through the everyday choices you make, and only offset those emissions that you really can’t reduce.