Off-setting carbon, back in fashion

29th Jul 2019


A few years ago carbon off-setting was seen as a soft option compared to “proper” decarbonisation. No doubt some schemes did not pass the test of being genuinely additional, sustainable and delivering the carbon savings advertised. But that doesn’t mean they can’t work, because they can. And as I’ve said before, if we can also deliver additional development co-benefits, then they are a worthwhile option. They are also a relatively cheap means to decarbonise.

The Department for Transport has issued a consultation on carbon offsetting, which EUA will be more than happy to submit a response to. In light of this, pollster YouGov asked people what they thought about carbon off-setting their flights. The results were interesting, if not a touch depressing.

When asked if they supported a “voluntary, opt out” carbon offset scheme which added to the cost of a flight, 34 per cent opposed it; 32 per cent supported and 34 per cent didn’t know. That’s a three way tie and hardly a ringing endorsement of the lifestyle changes envisaged by the Climate Change Committee recently in their NetZero scenarios.

A return flight from London to Paris would incur a carbon offset of just £5 for the flight. London City to Manchester £6. Heathrow to JFK and back, £44. No-one likes to see the cost of travel increase but if these sums are objectionable to the public, then wait until they see what it might cost to decarbonise heating or driving, particularly possible capital outlay on top of higher bills.

Those with extreme views on climate change may be passionate in their beliefs but unless and until the wider public are prepared to change and pay, then there remains the real risk that the UK will fail to meet its newly adopted legal target.