Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
What is the solution to climate change?
The solution is, in a way, quite simple. We need to reduce all human made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to zero. Ultimately this will be achieved by:
- Fully Decarbonising Electricity Generation (making it zero carbon e.g. from renewable energy sources)
- Fully Decarbonising Transport (cars, trucks, aircraft, ships etc.)
- Stopping Deforestation (this currently contributes around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions)
- Planting lots more trees (trees sequester the carbon already in the atmosphere and store it away)
- Reduce emissions from farming / agriculture and significantly reducing the consumption of meat (especially red meat)
Whilst positive progress is being made in many of these key areas, there is still much more to be done. Until we reach these goals we also need to reduce energy consumption across the board to slow down the rate of climate change.
What is Carbon Offsetting?
Carbon offsetting is about funding projects around the world that help reduce carbon emissions by a measurable and verifiable amount. Without the extra “carbon finance” from people or organisations offsetting their emissions, these projects would not have happened.
How does Carbon Offsetting Actually work?
Individual carbon offset projects around the world are being set up thanks to carbon finance provided by individuals and organisations offsetting their emissions. These projects include renewable energy generation, improving energy efficiency, reducing deforestation and planting more trees. The projects Carbon Footprint Ltd support all meet the leading international carbon offsetting standards and are rigorously inspected and regularly audited to assure that they are generating the carbon reductions. Carbon credits are only issued once these carbon savings have been made and verified. These carbon credits can then be purchased and used to offset the unavoidable emissions of other individuals and organisations (‘carbon offsetting’).
Your offsetting programme with Carbon Footprint Ltd is focused on retiring these carbon credits so that they cannot be used by other individuals or organisations. This then encourages the development of more carbon reduction programmes.
Surely it is better to reduce emissions to zero rather than offset them?
This has some truth to it and we should all try and reduce emissions as much as possible. However, it is not currently possible to reduce emissions to zero on a global level. There currently isn't enough renewable (or zero carbon) electricity to meet the global energy demand. There isn't currently anywhere near enough zero carbon forms of transport that can be practically used to meet the needs of international trade. No matter what you do to reduce your energy consumption and carbon footprint you are almost certainly going to still be responsible for some carbon emissions - not just from your direct energy usage, but indirectly from things you buy and services you use.
By supporting carbon offsetting projects, you are supporting the solutions to climate change, through choosing to help fund more renewable energy production; help fund improved efficiencies in developing countries; help fund teams working to reduce deforestation (which currently contributes around 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions); and helping plant more trees to capture and store carbon that has already been emitted into the atmosphere.
Shouldn't we be supporting carbon offsetting projects locally in our own country?
Carbon emissions do not respect international borders; as the CO2 enters the atmosphere, it spreads out and has an impact on the global climate. This means that 1 tonne of CO2 emissions emitted in Mumbai is the same as 1 tonne of CO2 being emitted in Manchester. This is the reason why we can compensate carbon emissions by supporting projects in other nations.
The solution to climate change cannot be provided by one country going zero carbon - we need global energy supply and global transportation to also be zero carbon, as well as helping protect established forests (the carbon stores) from deforestation. Supporting and encouraging more and more projects like these around the world through finance initiatives is a significant part of the solution to climate change. Whilst governments (around the world) delay in providing the funding and support needed for these project, you have the chance to step up and help out by offsetting your emissions.
Isn’t carbon offsetting a cop out for not reducing emissions yourself?
In a Utopian world, every organisation would be able to reduce its carbon emissions to zero – and perhaps even be net positive (e.g. with sufficient access to on-site renewable power and export to the National Grid). In practice, this is far more difficult, not only down to capital investment needs, but also cultural barriers and supply chain decisions (particularly relating to transport/travel).
There are several further benefits for offsetting with projects outside your own organisation. Frequently these projects are more cost effective than reducing CO2 on-site (this can cost in excess of 10 x more depending on where your organisation is located). Also, frequently the projects are located in developing countries where additional benefits include local employment, health and education.
The vast majority of organisations claiming carbon neutrality are achieving this with at least some carbon offsetting. Global brands that offset include Microsoft, DHL, Marks & Spencer, Sky etc., whilst having programmes to reduce emissions they also support global carbon offsetting initiatives - recognising the importance of the global solution.
How do we know the carbon offset has been made?
Carbon Footprint Ltd is certified under the Quality Assurance Standard (QAS). Originally set up by the UK Government. It is now run by as an independent not-for-profit organisation. The QAS independently audits all Carbon Footprint Ltd’s carbon offsetting to a rigorous 40 point plan annually. The auditing is completed by AEA – Ricardo, global experts who produce the annual UK Carbon Conversion factors and methodology that are the industry touchstone for greenhouse gas reporting.
What is Carbon Offset ‘Retirement’ and how is it Publicly Viewable?
Carbon offsets are retired on international carbon registries – such as Markit, APX and Gold Standard these will either be retired in the name of Carbon Footprint Ltd or in the name of the client (as requested by the client). All Carbon Footprint Ltd's carbon retirements are audited as part of the QAS process to check that we have retired enough carbon credits of the appropriate type and standards to meet all out annual carbon offset sales.
Market & Geographic Synergy – Meeting CSR Goals
You may also have chosen a carbon offset project that has a high level of synergy with where your offices/key clients/stakeholders are located and it is then a key way to ‘give back’ to those communities.
Alternatively, you may have chosen a project that is synergistic with your organisation’s line of business – e.g. a clean water borehole project for food and drinks company or a landfill gas reclaim project for a waste management business.
For both these examples, your choice is strategic and needs to be communicated in this way to your audience.