Can carbon offsets tackle airlines’ emissions problem?

(The Guardian, 19 Nov 2019) EasyJet is the latest firm to adopt offsetting – but is it a solution to the climate crisis?

Global carbon emissions from the aviation industry are growing faster than expected, and pose a serious risk to the world’s climate efforts if left to grow unchecked. The rise of flygskam, or “flight-shame”, has spurred airlines and travel companies to offer customers the option of offsetting the carbon emissions of their flights. But not everyone is convinced that climate sins can be absolved through projects based on simple carbon accounting.

What is carbon offsetting?

Offsetting involves calculating the emissions of a trip or activity and then purchasing “credits” from projects that prevent or remove the equivalent amount of greenhouse gases elsewhere. Many accredited carbon offsetting schemes involve planting trees to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which according to recent research could play a major role in helping to tackle the climate crisis. Other schemes invest in renewable energy projects which save carbon emissions by replacing fossil fuels alternatives. Growing awareness of the climate crisis, and the “Greta Thunberg effect”, has driven demand for carbon offset schemes. The amount of investment from people who hope to “cancel” their carbon footprints has climbed fourfold in recent years, according to the offsetting watchdog Gold Standard.

Which companies do it?

EasyJet’s pledge to fly carbon neutral follows a string of other airlines which hope to encourage passengers to keep flying despite climate concerns. At least 10 other airlines – including Air New Zealand and Air Canada – offer carbon offsetting to their passengers.

British Airways said this year that it plans to start offsetting the carbon from all its domestic flights from 2020. For passengers travelling further afield BA offers a carbon calculator and a range of accredited offset schemes to invest in. The schemes include reforestation in the Amazon basin and fitting low-smoke stoves in Sudan.

Royal Dutch Shell offers drivers which fill up at its petrol stations in the UK and the Netherlands the chance to “drive carbon neutral” at no extra cost by using carbon credits from conservation projects in Peru, Indonesia, the US and Britain.

External link

The Guardian, 19 Nov 2019: Can carbon offsets tackle airlines’ emissions problem?