I am thrilled that the outcome of my last visit with the people of Boston's Green Drinks group has led to some sharing of information on the emerging carbon offset market(s). I received e-mails from a member of NativeEnergy as well as a business locally based in Waltham, MA called Clean Air Lawn Care. I am hoping to have some more in depth conversations about carbon offsets and trading at the next Boston Green Drinks event this Tuesday April 3rd at The Times Irish Pub in Boston.
The gent from NativeEnergy pointed me to this article from BusinessWeek, Another Inconvenient Truth; Behind the feel-good hype of carbon offsets, some of the deals don't deliver. Where do the "offsets" come from? How are the counted and accurately applied? Where is the central governing boy that certifies "carbon offsets"? Good questions. As an aside, the moniker "Checkbook Environmentalists" is used in the article. As with "Corporate Hippies", it's a label I like since it succinctly describes what most people (with the means) would like to do; buy something that helps the planet and makes them feel good.
No sooner did I receive the note cluing me in to BusinessWeek's article on the inexact and potentially dubious nature of offsetting carbon emissions, do I see Ethical Corporation chiming in on the same subject, Offsetting emissions – The carbon con?. This quote from the article sums it up nicely, wrapping up the desires of the Checkbook Environmentalists
This is carbon offsetting. Of all the possible solutions to climate change none is perhaps more desirable, or less well understood.And it goes on!
Many projects are still not externally verified. Some off setters have no way of guaranteeing the reductions achieved by a project are in fact additional to energy savings that would have happened without the project taking place. And the selling of a single credit two or three times to different buyers – a process known as double counting – is not uncommon.Great, just what I am trying to understand, but that's the point, isn't it? We are in a young and emerging market for voluntary emissions, and there will be leaders, laggards, and scofflaws out there. The market will speak and the good ones will survive, the poorly managed ones will die, and the law-breakers will eventually be arrested (once there are some laws re: carbon dioxide emissions).
Jasmine Hyman, spokesperson for the Gold Standard certification of offsetting projects, says: “The voluntary market is a no-man's land.” Companies need to know what they are venturing into.