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Carbon Offsets, Explained

The other day, I was reading on how to further reduce my carbon footprint. We’ve heard all the tips: use public transport, switch to a plant-based diet, cut down single-use plastics if that’s available to you, use renewable energies, etc. One I hadn’t seen before was added to the list - carbon offsets.

I’ll admit, I didn’t really know what they were. On occasion I did hear about them, the jargon and scientific tone used put me off looking into them further - hence, this article. Let’s take a simple look into what carbon offsets are, how are they used, and their impact on our planet.

Picture yourself in a couple of months. You’ve just booked your first flight abroad to somewhere sunny, but your flight brings unwanted environmental repercussions. Carbon offsets are meant to quell your worries: you can compensate for your CO2 emissions by paying for emissions to be reduced elsewhere. Carbon offsetting sounds like an ideal solution to make up for your environmental sins. They are used by many large companies like Amazon, Disney, or Microsoft with the intent of reaching net-zero goals. For example, an organisation can invest in programmes or projects meant to reduce emissions. And that’s precisely where the issue comes in.

Many businesses use this method as a get-out-of-jail free card, a way to avoid fixing the root problem. Because how is carbon offsetting measured, how is it verified, does it even work?

Well, not really. Bottom line, cutting emissions will always be a better solution than offsetting. So, instead of taking the plane to your destination, consider taking the train instead, as more and more companies are now ready to give extra days off if your travels don’t involve flying.

Planting trees around the world is one of the most popular ways used to offset carbon, and on its own, it’s a good initiative. However, the wildfires, the typhoons, and other natural disasters we’ve seen so far this year, these initiatives are rendered ineffective. And if we add to that how it takes years for trees to start taking CO2 out of the air, it’s simply not a solution; we can’t afford to wait.



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