The Stupidity Of
The Carbon-offsets Programme
When politicians fly off on their latest freebie holiday they
respond to critics (who want to know why they are polluting the environment and
adding to global warming, instead of staying in a tent in Cornwall) by claiming
that they have purchased `carbon offsets' to balance their carbon
In 2007, the British Government said that everyone should
have their own carbon swipe cards forcing them to take more care of the
environment. (This will presumably not apply to ministers of their departments.
Figures from the Sustainable Development Commission shows that Defra is failing
miserably to cut its emissions. From 1999-2000 to 2005-6 its emissions rose 10
per cent to 12,600 tonnes. Mind you other Government departments were even
worse. The Foreign office, for example rose 191 per cent in the same time
Al Gore uses the same excuse as he flies around the world
promoting the film which explains why people who spend all their time flying
around the world are destroying the planet. When Gore found himself under fire
for using 20 times as much electricity in his Nashville mansion as the average
American, he defended himself with the same argument. He claimed he offset all
his carbon dioxide emissions by buying green credits.
all like to portray themselves as `green' and `environmentally aware'. When
asked about the fact that he has three Hummer vehicles the Governor of
California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, announced that two of the vehicles had been
converted to take ethanol. Managing to say this with a straight face must have
required more acting skills than I realised he had.)
The European Union,
the world's largest and most corrupt fascist organisation, has, of course, set
up its own carbon trading scheme.
As you might expect, the European
Union's scheme is of no benefit to the environment, the planet or you and me. As
you might equally expect, it is, on the other hand, of enormous benefit to the
large companies which are responsible for global warming.
the EU's carbon trading scheme was set up to encourage dirty power stations to
switch to cleaner forms of energy. The British Government was, as it always is
with anything which comes from Brussels, an enthusiastic supporter. Either
because they are corrupt or amazingly stupid (or possibly both, of course)
Britain's Government of war criminals made European carbon trading an integral
part of their drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The two are not
related, of course.
And in practice the scheme has allowed the dirtiest
polluters, the companies really responsible for global warming, to push up their
bills and increase their profits without lowering the level of their greenhouse
Even industry experts admit that the EU's carbon trading
scheme has been a windfall which has allowed the big power companies to increase
their profits by £1.5 billion a year.
You might have thought that if the
EU really wanted to cut pollution it would have introduced strict fines for
companies which produce a lot of carbon dioxide. But the EU bureaucrats didn't
want to do anything quite so logical, sensible, simple or effective.
EU's scheme gives permits to major electricity producers and manufacturers
allowing them to produce a fixed amount of carbon dioxide every year.
Any company which reduces its allowed ration of pollution can sell its
unused permit to pollute on the open market. A company which exceeds its allowed
level of pollution must buy an extra permit to pollute.
But it gets barmier.
not believe how barmy it gets.
Anyone with functioning brain tissue
between their ears would have forced companies to buy their permits to pollute.
This would have given them a real financial incentive to reduce their level of
But oh no.
Not the EU.
The EU (supported and
endorsed let me remind you by all three major political parties in Britain)
succumbed to pressure from the polluters and handed out the permits free of
The EU (the same one which tells member governments to charge
citizens to have their household rubbish taken away) actually gave free permits
to pollute to some of Europe's largest companies.
What the witless
idiots at the EU presumably hadn't realised was that the minute the big
electricity producers had their permits they would cut their output of
electricity in order to reduce their level of pollutants. They would then be
able to sell their spare polluting capacity to other companies. Having cut the
amount of electricity they were producing, the big electricity companies were
then able to put up their prices.
A bunch of the
world's biggest polluters made extra money by charging more for their
electricity. And they made extra money by selling off part of their permit to
pollute. (A permit which, remember, the EU had given them free of charge.) So,
that's how the EU is protecting the environment and preventing global warming.
Makes you feel warm inside doesn't it?
Do carbon offsets really give politicians (and you)
a good excuse for continuing to do whatever they (and you) like?
of carbon offsets is that when you fly to Bermuda to stay in a pop star's home
you invest in a project which either removes some carbon dioxide from the
atmosphere or prevents some carbon dioxide being put into the atmosphere. There
are now many small, and rapidly growing firms, offering a variety of such
schemes (mainly, I suspect, to embarrassed politicians).
Government has announced that it is spending £3 million offsetting the
environmental damage caused by the flights of Labour Ministers. (They have not
explained why they didn't just keep them at home.)
Most of the people who
`offset' are air travellers.
This is probably because itís fairly easy
to isolate the damage done by a flight and probably because it is a fairly
inexpensive way to feel good about yourself.
The truth, however, is that
flying is a relatively insignificant factor in the production of carbon dioxide
in the United Kingdom - producing only 5.5% of the nation's carbon dioxide.
However, the companies which sell carbon offsets have targeted people who fly
because they're easy to isolate and easy to make guilty.
Do these schemes
work? Are they really going to make a difference?
The answer, I fear, is
a fairly loud No.
Some projects (planting trees for example) would have
taken place with or without someone paying a carbon offset `guilt' fee. As far
as the planet is concerned nothing whatsoever is gained by giving the tree
planter an extra fee for the right to his `carbon offset'. (There are persistent
rumours that some unscrupulous individuals may sell the carbon value of their
trees to numerous buyers.)
Since there is no register of who is paying
for what it is perfectly possible that some slightly bent Arthur Daley character
in some far off land could be selling and reselling the carbon offset value of
the tree he planted many many times.
No one knows.
anyone really know the damage done by a flight or the value of a tree.
When the magazine Nature asked four offset firms for the carbon
dioxide emissions per person of a return London to Bangkok flight they got four
different answers - varying from 2.1 tons of carbon dioxide to 9.9 tons of
And, in practice, of course, the damage done depends on
the number of people who were on the flight.
Fly by private jet and you
are obviously doing far more damage than if you are crammed sardine-like into a
Other projects which produce carbon offset brownie points
(such as making biofuels) are at best worthless. (As proven elsewhere on this
The other problem is that it is pretty well impossible to
carbon offset all the terrible things we are doing.
To offset the UK's
annual emissions total of carbon dioxide we would have to plant and maintain for
ever a forest the size of Dorset. Every year. And whenever a tree was cut down
another one would have to be planted.
The Labour Government claims that
other solutions include paying for energy efficient wood burning stoves to be
exported to Nicaragua (how, pray, do they get there? By kite), installing energy
efficient light bulbs in Kazakhstan, refitting low flow shower heads into
showers and putting solar panels into houses.
Friends of the Earth is
sceptical, pointing out that you might as well try `stopping sea levels rising
by drinking a glass of water'.
The bottom line is that buying carbon
offsets is just an easy way for well off politicians to feel good about
themselves without having to give up their freebie holidays abroad.
it's a great way for people to make money.
There are now a number of
carbon trading companies which make a living out of acting as agents for the
In practice, the whole scheme is a load of worthless and
irrelevant baloney which isn't going to make a damn of difference to anything.
It doesn't make any difference to carbon emissions, global warming or peak oil.
The only beneficiary is the daft sod who wrote out a cheque so that he didn't
have to sell the Hummer or cancel the holiday to the Seychelles.
all a bit like the system of `indulgences' which was in vogue during medieval
times. Sinners haggled with and then paid a corrupt priest a fee to absolve
Except that the planet is
And we did it.
Copyright Vernon Coleman 30th
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