Offsetting your CO2

Carbon offsetting

Unless you're walking or cycling, you're going to expend some, all, or more than the four tonnes of CO2 mainstream science calculates is your personal yearly carbon allowance. This wouldn’t be quite enough to get you from London to Australia and back – and you might want some carbon credit left for heating, lighting and food! Then bear in mind that the four tonnes is already more than twice what many scientists believe is sustainable.

Carbon offsetting is not the complete answer but it helps to balance the carbon you’ve produced by travelling. It works by taking units of CO2 out of the system, thus balancing the negative impact of your travel. Carbon offset companies have simple online calculators that allow you to work out the carbon cost of your flight.

Carbon offset companies

Carbon offset companies plough money into schemes to alleviate climate change – new schemes, not ones that would have happened anyway. Some are privately owned, others run by charities and today operate fully accountable, audited, fossil fuel substitution projects – mostly in developing countries.

Buying carbon offsets each time you travel doesn't let you off the hook: if every airline passenger bought into them, carbon offset companies would rapidly run out of offset schemes.

Nevertheless, offsetting is better than doing nothing at all. Schemes fund new alternative energy projects in developing countries. They also raise awareness of climate issues so have an important role to play alongside the actual reduction of your carbon footprint.

There are now hundreds of carbon offset schemes – a few just green wash but most are worthwhile. recommends (one of the oldest and most respected offset companies and now part of the investmentbank JPMorgan).

Photographs – Climate Care case stories
Offset schemes fund new alternative energy projects