Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The Australian Government has delayed the implementation of an Australian Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) until 2013. This failure at the political level has severely retarded the ability of Australia as a nation to effectively combat climate change. With no framework to regulate the reduction of carbon emissions in Australia, the onus is now on individuals and organisations to voluntarily reduce emissions in order to help drive the transition to a low-carbon future.
So how does an organisation or individual most effectively reduce global carbon emissions? Certainly, the need to avoid and reduce energy use is necessary and financially beneficial, but more is needed to achieve the deep cuts in carbon emissions required to reduce damaging climate change.
We need to reduce the amount of carbon mankind emits to the atmosphere. One way to achieve this is through effective carbon offsets.
Carbon offsetting allows you to reduce carbon emissions by a cheaper and more convenient process elsewhere than you can achieve yourself.
Forestry and renewables have been common offset solutions. About half of Australia’s offsets are created through forestry; the rest is mostly renewables with some greenhouse gas trapping projects (mostly methane).
However, many of these schemes deal with the symptom and not the cause - they do not directly promote the reduction of carbon emitted by industry. They are reactive. Worse still, the lack of an ETS in Australia has serious implications for the use of Australian projects as voluntary carbon offsets for Australians, as they may not be additional.
A more effective carbon offset, which is measurable, verifiable and additional, is the internationally recognised carbon emission credit from a carbon market such as the European ETS. Paul Gilding, ex-CEO of Greenpeace International, referred to buying and voluntarily cancelling the rights of industry to emit carbon dioxide from a limited pool of carbon emission credits as the ‘most pure’ form of carbon offset.
Do international offsets have a positive effect on countries who do not have a carbon market? Yes, because climate change is a global problem. Reducing carbon emissions anywhere in the world will help save the future as we know it for the entire world.