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Climate Corner

Carbon offsets are seen across the spectrum from eco-scam to the best thing to ever happen to sustainability movement on a mass scale. The debate surrounding the effectiveness of buying offsets to mitigate travel impacts, down to the very morality of selling them, is ongoing, and often fierce.

STI works to educate the travel and tourism industry, travelers, consumers, and businesses about Climate and Carbon Management options. As a non-profit organization, transparency is a priority, and by being up front about the realities of carbon management, our carbon reduction and offsets services are a globally recognized and respected way to manage your carbon impacts.

Fact or Fiction
The effectiveness of carbon offsets to mitigate carbon emissions makes up a large part of the argument, and it’s a sticky issue. How does buying carbon offsets help negate the immediate impacts of a flight or cross-country drive? Is offsetting simply a guilt-reduction strategy?

To fully understand the whole picture, it is first important to know that at the end of the day, offsets are not THE solution. Offsets are a necessary step to help mitigate the emissions that we cannot eliminate. The important—and often overlooked—first step is to measure our impacts, then work to reduce those impacts so that we are contributing less to climate degradation. The second is to offset unavoidable emissions.

Many agree that the only way to really slow global warming is through stringent legislation, controlling emissions through carbon tax and cap and trade, increasing fuel-efficiency standards, lifestyle shifts, and investing in renewable and alternative energy—on a worldwide, mass scale. Carbon sequestration (capture and storage) will also be necessary. Given the urgency of the climate crisis—even though we don’t all feel it (or see it) —this legislation will happen, but it’s also important to understand that we will never have a zero emissions situation on this planet in the near term—and that is where offsets are viable.

Carbon offsets do not immediately mitigate the carbon emissions spewing from your international flight. And by buying offsets we are not magically erasing carbon from the atmosphere—it is what the money is funding that matters. Money from your offset purchase is invested in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and reforestation projects and supports research for new technologies. How does this mitigate your individual impacts? By planting more trees, using wind and solar power, and using alternative, renewable fuels (like algae) we are lessening the toll on the atmosphere and necessarily investing in a sustainable future. It is not a case of immediate gratification, but a long process that can be shortened by taking preventive measures (again, reducing first!).

This article is quoted from the Responsible Travel Report The Sustainable Tourism e-Newsletter Vol. 7 No. 7, July 2009 from STI.

This article is uploaded by Majbritt Thomsen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’.

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Posted in Best practice, Development, Performance and management, Sustainability.

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