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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 July 2007, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Have Your Say: Carbon confusion
Photomontage of aeroplanes flying over a street
The number of offset firms has more than tripled in the last year

In the past year government figures show Britons have spent 60m on carbon off-setting schemes and that figure is forecast to grow rapidly.

Off-setting companies work out the amount of carbon we generate through our daily activities and suggest an amount of money we could donate to environmentally beneficial projects to make up for it.

The firms which sell these schemes are not currently regulated, although the government is currently consulting on a draft code of practice which is expected to take effect next year.

But critics argue some projects may not provide additional benefits to local communities, and may even creating further damage to the environment.

We asked for your comments, a selection of which are below. This debate is now closed.


I can't quite believe my ears. Solar Panels etc: all very laudable, then he wants to fly his family to Walt Disney World.
Mike, Swansea

Please lets have some peace
Mike Hildrew, Hull
Please, please lets have some peace from the "carbon footprint", "global warming", "green house gases", "carbon offsetting" etc, etc, etc. I'm fed up to the back teeth with this subject. Every time I put the radio on and the TV, that's all I hear. I shall go on my once a year flight to Portugal. I will use my car. I do all that is humanly possible here at home: I recycle everything, no food leaves this house, I have double glazing, I keep to 20C, I take showers, I have and use a bike. Now give us a break.
Mike Hildrew, Hull

The future of the planet is very bleak indeed if we continue to consume fossil fuels at current levels. Simon's justification for flying to America was that his children would protest if they didn't go. Perhaps Simon could explain to them about the dire future the planet faces if we keep emitting CO2 and other greenhouse gases at current levels. Not flying is one of the most difficult decisions we have taken in our desire to lead a low carbon lifestyle but we feel there is no alternative.
Tim Nicholson, Oxford

Solar lighting and electricity generation from waste will address pollution in India where it occurs. It will not offset carbon emissions from someone else flying his family across the Atlantic.
Adrian Betham, Highgate

We cannot rely on carbon trading or offsets; we must change our ideas and cut down individually.
Mrs Marilyn Sansom, Old Wives Lees, Canterbury

Offset schemes are merely guilt-reduction schemes
Steve Poole, Leatherhead
How about travelling to Euro Disney by train instead, and explaining to the children how they are helping the planet by doing so? This programme reinforces my belief that the offset schemes are merely guilt-reduction schemes. However you spin it, you are still dumping CO2 into the atmosphere that wouldn't otherwise be there.
Steve Poole, Leatherhead

What a pity that CO2-emission permits were not given to individuals, thus achieving directly the personal responsibility that we can now only hope for. This would be administratively complex, perhaps requiring something like a carbon credit card, but the seriousness of the situation would make this worthwhile as a total ceiling could then be put on greenhouse gas emissions nationwide.
Tom Heydeman, Reading

All schemes to reduce CO2 release will cause CO2 release
David Lunnun, Leeds
The most relevant summary of carbon offsetting I have heard was on the recent Channel 4 documentary: 'We need to go on an energy diet and it's just the same as going on a food diet - if you want to lose weight you can't continue consuming the same amount of food and expect the problem to be solved by someone else eating less. To solve the problem we need to use less energy'. Any carbon capture through biomass growth will only last until the plants die then the CO2 will go back into the atmosphere. The problem is, whenever fossil fuel is burnt we release CO2 from 'material' that was deposited millions of years ago and took millions of years to deposit. All schemes to reduce CO2 release will cause CO2 release: building a dam takes a lot of energy for quarrying the material, moving the material and constructing it and to make solar panels the materials have to be extracted and manufactured and transported.
David Lunnun, Leeds

If you really want to offset the carbon from the flight to the USA, forget all that complicated stuff about carbon trading. The best way to reduce your carbon footprint it is to resolve to keep your car a year or two longer before replacing it. You end up driving an older car, but your bank balance wins and you feel good as you tell your friends you still have the old car to save the planet. The fuel saving in a newer model is insignificant compared to the energy consumed in manufacture.
Brian Knell, Sheerness

If you think you need to offset your activity, you shouldn't engage in the activity at all.
Joe Lalor, Dublin

Simon Mallett is entirely wrong to think that buying carbon credits will stop pollution
Anonymous, Taunton
Simon Mallett is entirely wrong to think that buying carbon credits will stop pollution. By retiring the credits you simply remove the ability for the large European energy generators to buy Carbon cheaply on the open market. If the generators fail to buy enough credits at the end of any given year to cover any excess CO2 emissions above their targets they simply pay a fine. Given the fluctuation in world fuels prices it may actually be beneficial for generators to run their power stations with coal, for example, a 'dirty' fuel, at a cheaper rate than paying the fine. Carbon offset businesses all promote reduction of our CO2 emissions to the greatest possible extent. Only when we have done this should we look to offset the unavoidable excess. A trip to Florida is entirely avoidable in my opinion. I do believe carbon offsetting has a place in the fight against climate change. Ultimately we will find it much cheaper and easier to reduce carbon emissions in developing countries than the longer, more costly challenge of changing the habits and infrastructures of the developed world.
Anonymous, Taunton

Once again this programme about carbon offsetting shows a financial type of transaction taken out in the UK unregulated by the Financial authorities. Perhaps there should be a blanket law that any financial transaction in the UK should be regulated and the Banks should be doing more to offer a service too.
Christina Gore, Borough of Richmond upon Thames

Any purchase of properly certified carbon credits is a totally valid way of offsetting any actor's carbon emissions
Ross King, Oxhey
It would help if the programme and the BBC got clearer about the basics of why we do carbon trading. The world could progressively reduce annual output of climate change gases to estimated safe levels, as we are doing with ozone depleting substances under the Montreal Protocol. Since the early 90s, the world has been working out how to do this better, through the UNFCCC (UN Framework convention on Climate Change) process. Development of 'cap-and-trade' marks a massive improvement. Instead of just pain of progressive reduction, it allows and rewards innovation, efficiency and responsibility. If a (normally quite large) organization reduces its output of CC gases below the amount required under the descending cap, it can 'bank it' or sell it. The firm gains twice - through efficiency and through obtaining money for carbon credits sold. This system developed through a decade of global collaborative thinking, research and negotiation is a triumph of the human spirit, of human intelligence and of often unknown and unacknowledged leadership. It must be better understood by the BBC and its programme-makers. Any purchase of properly certified carbon credits is a totally valid way of offsetting any actor's carbon emissions, since it withdraws that amount from the official 'balloon' available. It is totally legitimate. It does not preclude any actor going ahead and reducing their actor emissions faster and further than the world has currently agreed - or adding their voice to the demand for higher and quicker global reductions.
Ross King, Professor Emeritus, (Oxon), MA, CEnv MIEMA, CSEM Programme Director, Oxhey, Herts

Instead of paying into carbon offsetting schemes of unproven value, why not make a substantial donation to a charity?
Kate Ingleby, Cheshire

So, have I understood the implications of your item on carbon offsetting correctly? The real cost of taking a family to Orlando should really cost 300 more than it actually does. Is this what a real carbon levy on unnecessary flight would cost? How many years before our timid government will grasp this particular nettle?
Brain Russell, Sully, Penarth

The truth is that people should not travel several thousand miles for a holiday
John, Romford, UK
While the idea of carbon offsetting is essentially good in theory, it actually amounts to a license for rich Westerners to carry on polluting while salving their conscience. The truth is that people should not travel several thousand miles for a holiday.
John, Romford, UK

I found the CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) and other options confusing and ultimately have no idea if my money would actually be used honestly. I therefore contacted my old university to find out if they were working on projects that would lead to better technology for the use of renewable energy resources. They are and they will be getting my money. Carbon offset is a money generating band-wagon and means that real progress is still not being funded. The concerned public should be given the option to fund projects at university and research establishments here in the UK.
Claire Kelly, London

Simon Mallet does have an option: he can tell his children they can't go to America. It will teach them a valuable lesson in environmental responsibility and they will not kill him.
Helen Wilde, Bristol

Surely, offsetting means that people with money can pay for the damage they are doing to the planet. Would it not be much fairer if each person was given an equal ration of how much carbon they could emit - then it would be up to each individual to choose how they used this ration? If you wanted a fuel guzzling car you would have to do without something else such as foreign holidays, etc.
Margaret Keirnen, Colonsay


The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.



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