Carbon offsetting encourages people or institutions to be aware of their GHG (Greenhouse Gases) emissions and make efforts to reduce them by purchasing credits, investing in projects, or acting in reducing GHG (Greenhouse Gases) emissions and offsetting their emissions. Looks romantic right?
But will it help us to achieve the Paris Agreement commitments? The world seems to be on a roller coaster drive of climate change. With parts of Europe experiencing flooding, Greenland seeing rain instead of snow on its peak ice sheet, and Canada and some parts of the USA facing unprecedented heat levels, we already have a threat in our hands.
We have the Paris Agreement, which highlights under Article 2 the aims of the convention. These include maintaining the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
Second, increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development in a manner that does not threaten food production.
Lastly, making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. We also have to comprehend the working of the process and loopholes of carbon offsetting simultaneously.
The key here is balancing our carbon footprint. Several schemes are operating environmental projects worldwide, especially in developing countries, for reducing future emissions. These schemes can focus on the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere by planting trees or emphasizing rolling out clean energy technologies or by purchasing carbon credits from an emission trading scheme.
The problem is not only related to the effectiveness of the project, but also the additionality of the savings. Since it’s simply out of the question to determine additionality with 100% accuracy, another complication deals with the issue of credibility.
Heather Rogers, the author of Green Gone Wrong, visited such offset schemes in India that faced irregularities of all sorts; one such was the visit to the VSG biomass power plant, where he highlighted many discrepancies on the part of the actual working of the plant. The debate around the credibility of offsetting questions the effectiveness of this solution itself.
While its advocates suggest that offsetting intensive-carbon activities such as flight will not only help to stop the total carbon footprint of individuals from rising but also to reduce it significantly. However, environmentalists argue for a holistic approach wherein progress is made by government-funded projects globally while individuals and companies should focus on reducing their carbon footprint directly.
Talking about the nitty-gritty of the issue, the advantages are pretty attractive. They can appeal to companies to take advantage of lower-cost opportunities to reduce emissions in sectors not subject to the emissions cap resulting in primary environmental and economic benefits.
These can include technology transfer among developed and developing countries; job development and local economic growth; reductions in deforestation of tropical forests, restoration of degraded forests, and adoption of sustainable forestry and agricultural practices.
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On an ending note, climate change is a global issue, so solutions should be inclusive. We have to deal with every sector of the economy and our daily routines to cope with the situation.
If carbon offsetting is the panacea of all environmental issues, climate change has a universal character to it, so we must be responsible while donating our resources for any initiative.