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Carbon offsetting: a powerful tool if part of an overall strategy

Author: Lode Verbruggen

Companies and countries can reduce their carbon footprint by means of carbon offsetting: compensating their emission of carbon dioxide by avoiding or extracting the same amount elsewhere. But critics often compare this to the medieval catholic indulgences: by paying indulgences to the church, your sins were forgiven. And you could happily continue your misbehavior. BrightWolves is of the opinion that carbon offsetting remains a powerful tool in our struggle to preserve climate, but only if it is part of an overall carbon reduction strategy.

What is carbon offsetting?

Carbon offsetting works like a balance. An offset compensates a certain amount of emitted carbon dioxide by avoiding or extracting the same amount of carbon dioxide somewhere else. There are many different offsetting options such as installment of energy saving technologies, renewable energy sources or reforestation projects. Non-profit organizations such as WWF and newborn organizations act as regulators, checking offsetting projects and calculating the price to be paid per ton of CO2. At the WWF Gold Standard, offsetting your carbon emissions is possible starting from $10 per ton CO2.

A powerful tool...

Carbon offsetting offers remarkable opportunities. Its impact is limitless, global and it can offer more than environmental benefits:

1. Impact is limitless: Depending on your budget, you can invest in as many offsetting projects as you wish. Hereby, you can compensate more carbon dioxide than you produce.

2. Impact is global: Offsetting programs can be found all over the world and mostly in developing countries. This means that you can have a global impact without being present in multiple countries.

3. Impact exceeds environmental benefits: Besides reducing carbon emissions, most offsetting projects also improve living standards of people nearby. (e.g. providing water filters to families in Laos to ensure safe access to clean water and to reduce fossil fuels and wood required to boil water)

These points show that offsetting can be considered as a powerful tool. Companies can outrun carbon neutrality and strive for a positive impact on the environment.

...But potentially also a greenwashing scam

Despite the wonderful story of offsetting strategies, many critics believe that carbon offsetting is just another greenwashing scam. Multiple arguments were raised against offsetting programs: their impact is indirect, is often miscalculated and can have reverse effects: