What is carbon offset?

So what does carbon offset really means? And why has this become such a popular tool when it comes to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions? Let’s look into the concept to get a better understanding of what it means and how it is used.  


Carbon offset – the definition
First things first. Carbon offset is not a new concept. But in the last couple of years it has become an increasingly popular way of taking responsibility for one’s emissions. First, you calculate how much CO2 you want to neutralise. It might be the emissions for a flight for example. Then you buy “offset” for that amount of CO2, meaning you pay to decrease or omit those emissions elsewhere. So instead of making changes that would decrease your own emissions, you pay to reduce emissions elsewhere, where it may be cheaper to do such reductions. There are currently many projects all over the world, with the purpose to reduce CO2 emissions. These projects are financed by people and organisation buying carbon offset.


Is carbon offsetting good or bad?
There have been many discussions about carbon offsetting. There has also been quite a few scandals around the actual offset projects. Some have been mismanaged, others not efficient as carbon sinks and some has even destroyed local environments.

And is carbon offset good for the climate? Some say yes, as we are then decreasing emissions where it makes the most economic sense. Others say no, as the phenomenon makes it seem ok to continue with the emissions here, where we if fact need to rapidly decrease them everywhere.

So what should we then think of carbon offsetting? Our stance, and many with us, is to reduce all the emissions we possibly can ourselves. For the emissions that are still left, it seems reasonably to buy carbon offset – but from certified and monitored carbon offset projects.

We do need to change our behaviours to decrease emissions as rapidly as we must, and carbon offset shouldn’t be a way to avoid of even postpone that important work. But there’s more – when you do those necessary reductions, you’ll see that often you also end up saving som money! Good for you and good for the planet!

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