Carbon Offsets Benefit Rotary Projects
April 2009 - Airlines such as Continental, Delta, and British Airways offer passengers the chance to buy carbon credits to offset the carbon dioxide generated by their travel. So do rental car companies and credit card companies – even eBay offers carbon credits for sale. The New York Times reported that in 2007, people and companies in the United States bought US$54 million in carbon offset credits.
Christine Sephton recalls reading news reports about consumers not knowing where all that green money ends up. “I got to thinking, Rotary could be doing this,” says Sephton, a member of the Rotary Club of East Hampton, N.Y., USA. “We could have our own offset trust, and the money could go to Rotary projects.”
The result was a joint project between the Rotary clubs of East Hampton and Sheffield, England, where Sephton’s husband, Peter, is a member (the couple divides their time between England and the United States). The CO2 Offset Trust – Rotarians for CO2 Reduction now includes nine clubs on four continents.
Here’s how it works: Visitors to the trust’s Web site, www.co2offsettrust.org , can calculate the amount of carbon dioxide generated from an airplane flight. They can then donate to the trust through the Web site using a credit card; the amount is calculated based on the amount of carbon dioxide produced. The trust is a registered charity in the United Kingdom.
The money raised helps fund Rotary projects that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or that teach people how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Money has gone toward a forest replanting project by the Rotary Club of Harrogate, England, and a solar oven project by the Rotary Club of Fresno, Calif., USA.
Lorna Milligan, a member of the Fresno club, is working with her club’s environmental committee to involve Rotarians in generating funds for CO2 offsets. “We find that most people believe it is important for us to do something, and this is a way to get started,” she says.
The Sephtons also see the project as a forum for Rotarians to share ideas. Information on the trust’s Web site emphasizes things Rotarians can do to conserve energy and educate themselves and the public about climate change. “Everything is connected,” Sephton says. “It’s joining up the dots. Rotary does so much with disease and poverty, but it’s all connected.”
Source: The Rotarian
There are two markets for carbon offsets. In the larger compliance market, companies, governments, or other entities buy carbon offsets in order to comply with caps on the total amount of carbon dioxide they are allowed to emit. In 2006, about $5.5 billion of carbon offsets were purchased in the compliance market, representing about 1.6 billion metric tons of CO2e reductions.
In the much smaller voluntary market, individuals, companies, or governments purchase carbon offsets to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, electricity use, and other sources. For example, an individual might purchase carbon offsets to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions caused by personal air travel. In 2006, about $91 million of carbon offsets were purchased in the voluntary market, representing about 24 million metric tons of CO2e reductions.
Offsets are typically achieved through financial support of projects that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases in the short- or long-term. The most common project type is renewable energy, such as wind farms, biomass energy, or hydroelectric dams. Others include energy efficiency projects, the destruction of industrial pollutants or agricultural byproducts, destruction of landfill methane, and forestry projects.
Carbon offsetting has gained some appeal and momentum mainly among consumers in western countries who have become aware and concerned about the potentially negative environmental effects of energy-intensive lifestyles and economies. The Kyoto Protocol has sanctioned offsets as a way for governments and private companies to earn carbon credits which can be traded on a marketplace. The protocol established the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which validates and measures projects to ensure they produce authentic benefits and are genuinely "additional" activities that would not otherwise have been undertaken. Organizations that are unable to meet their emissions quota can offset their emissions by buying CDM-approved Certified Emissions Reductions.
Offsets may be cheaper or more convenient alternatives to reducing one's own fossil-fuel consumption. However, some critics object to carbon offsets, and question the benefits of certain types of offsets.
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