How to find your way through the maze of Carbon Offsetting

Snow covered Mount Taranaki and the coast of Taranaki from an airplane with little fluffy white clouds 

There has been a lot of discussion & debate about offsetting carbon emissions lately.  Are they a good thing or are they just a means for people to offset and not make any meaningful changes to help resolve the human impact on the climate?

When you travel if you have the option of using a form of transport that emits less carbon, such as catching a train, then it is certainly better to choose that option but sometimes there is just simply no other option than to get on an airplane.

Carbon offsetting is not perfect, but I believe it is at least a step towards making positive changes for the environment versus doing nothing. Everyone does need to make their own minds about what is the priority.

Once you’ve decided to offset your carbon emission, for travel or everyday activities, how do you know how, where or who you should do your offsetting through? It is all very confusing.

Here are the Asmuss tips for choosing the best way to offset carbon for you.

Airline offset programmes

Some airlines offer you to the option to offset the emissions from your flight when you make your booking. Just keep an eye out for the option when you are completing your booking or search on their website to find out more.

Examples of certified airline carbon offset schemes

Air New Zealand Fly Neutral programme ;

Air Canada’s work with Less Emissions;

British Airways Carbon Fund created with Pure Leap Frog; 

Brussels Airlines with CO2 Logic;

KLM’s CO2ZERO; and

Austrian Airlines with Carbon Austria

This makes it much easier to carbon offset as the airline should have done all the hard work for you but it does mean that they have made the decision on how much to offset and where to offset.  A lot of airlines now offer the option of offsetting your carbon at the time you book your flights.

Given how easy it is to offset your carbon using the airlines programmes very few people actually offset.  Before November 2019 approximately 10% of Qantas customers were choosing to carbon offset through their programme.  Qantas are  now matching customers offsets to encourage more uptake.  In July 2019 Air New Zealand reported that only 5% of New Zealand based passengers were offsetting their carbon emissions voluntarily, while UK passengers offset approximately 10%.

As an aside I do wonder why airlines don’t pay for the carbon offsets themselves, rather than rely on a small percentage of passengers to do it. There are some airlines must have been thinking the same thing, such as EasyJet, as they are now offsetting all carbon emissions.  British Airways now offsets their carbon emissions for flights within the UK (but not international flights) too. Although opposing opinion of this has been given by a representative of Greenpeace who was quoted as saying EasyJet’s plan was “jumbo sized greenwash”.  This just reinforces the problem of working out the best thing to do so all I would advise is to do your research and make the best decision you can.

Other airlines, such as Emirates, are choosing not to offer carbon offsets to their customers and instead say that they would rather focus on reducing their emissions.

 

 

Wave breaking with clear sea green water
Flowering pink Rata in Fiordland New Zealand

Independent Carbon Offset Schemes

If you would prefer to have a little more control over where you put your carbon offset you could choose to go to an independent carbon offset scheme.  A lot of these also allow you to offset your carbon emissions for activities other than flying too

Climate Care in the UK

Ekos in New Zealand

atmosfair, based in Germany, who also provide research into how well airlines are reducing their emissions 

MyClimate in Switzerland

Terrapass in the US.

Carbon fund  

DYI: Invest in directly in carbon offset projects. 

If you want control of the specific projects that are support you can invest your carbon offsets direct with projects.  Takes a lot more research and work to verify but can also provide a great sense of connection to the success of the project.

 

Certification & verification of schemes & projects

It is always worth checking that the projects and schemes you use are doing what they say.  There are a number of schemes that provide including:

Gold Standard sets requirements to design projects for maximum positive impact in climate and development.

ISO-14064 is the International standard for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals.

Social Carbon is a Standard developed by the Ecologica Institute that certifies carbon reduction projects for their contributions to sustainable development

Verified Carbon Standard Verra develops and manages standards that help countries, the private sector and civil society achieve their sustainable development and climate action goals.

United Nations Climate Change Carbon Credits are verified by the UN.

 

 

We hope this helps a little to find your way through the maze that is carbon offsetting.

Dry grassland and seed pods in New Mexico