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Carbon off-setting

What is carbon offsetting?

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.

Does offsetting mean you don't need to worry about saving energy?

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:.

  1. Calculate your emissions using our carbon cutter. This will show you where you can make changes in your lifestyle to reduce your emissions.
  2. Avoid emissions whenever possible. Our What can I do today? section offers plenty of practical advice.
  3. Reduce emissions from activities you can't avoid. Ask yourself whether you can do the same thing in a more sustainable way.
  4. Only offset emissions you cannot avoid or reduce, using an effective offsetting scheme.

If you have to offset which scheme should you go for?

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 Assurance Scheme

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.

The Gold Standard

This certification was introduced by environmental groups. It identifies offset projects that:

  • meet good sustainability standards
  • deliver benefits to local communities
  • are based on energy efficiency or renewable energy

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