Offsetting offers businesses and individuals a way to compensate for the carbon emissions they produce.
It involves paying an offset company to invest in renewable energy schemes - projects that will reduce carbon emissions by an equal amount to those created by activities such as air travel, driving or heating a building.
No - the most effective way to help fight climate change is to cut down on the amount of energy you use and reduce your personal carbon footprint.
To most effectively reduce your carbon footprint we recommend following these steps, also known as the carbon reduction virtuous circle:.
Offsetting is a new idea and exactly how effective it is remains unclear. However, if you're looking for a scheme, we recommend choosing one that invests in renewable energy or energy efficiency projects and can prove that what it does is really reducing CO 2 emissions.
Projects that involve tree planting (known as reforestation or afforestation projects), bioenergy or capturing gas from existing industrial plants aren't as effective as they don't invest in the infrastructure needed for a low carbon future.
At present, there are no legal guidelines that offset companies have to follow, but standards have been set by a number of accreditation bodies. These include:
DECC's Quality Mark is awarded to schemes that meet Government and United Nation's standards. This is a good first step for identifying a reliable offset scheme. For more detail on the scheme and a list of companies that have received the mark see http://campaigns2.direct.gov.uk/actonco2/home/features/offsetting.html.
This certification was introduced by environmental groups. It identifies offset projects that:
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