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7 - Buying our way out of trouble

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Peter Newell
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
Matthew Paterson
Affiliation:
University of Ottawa
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Summary

Most people in wealthier parts of the world have come across invitations to calculate their carbon footprint, offset their carbon emissions or go on a ‘low-carbon diet’. Many large firms now do the same in order to market themselves as ‘carbon neutral’, often as part of broader climate change Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies as we saw in Chapter 3. Offsets are now routinely sold to firms and individuals, in particular to offset emissions from air travel. Consumers are sold products that both alleviate their sense of guilt and claim to contribute to low-carbon development projects in poor countries. The fact that poorer countries will bear the worst effects of climate change adds to the feeling of culpability. Journalist Mark Honigsbaum writes:

‘Flying over Kenya's Rift Valley … it's hard not to feel a pang of guilt … I feel guilty because as a privileged westerner with an addiction to air travel I am at this very moment spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at the rate of about 1kg a minute, emissions that, according to climate change experts, may be contributing to Kenya's faltering rains.’

Offsets offer the prospect of compensating directly those whose livelihoods are threatened as a result of your actions.

Most European airlines and a growing number of North American ones have direct links to one or other of the firms dealing in carbon offsets, so that when you buy a ticket from their website, at the end of the process the website asks if you would like to offset your carbon emissions.

Type
Chapter
Information
Climate Capitalism
Global Warming and the Transformation of the Global Economy
, pp. 108 - 128
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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References

Honigsbaum, M., ‘Is carbon offsetting the solution (or part of the problem)?The Observer, 10 June 2007Google Scholar
Finance, Carbon, ‘EcoSecurities’ woes prompt CER rethink', Carbon Finance, 20 November, 2007Google Scholar
Milner, M., ‘Cornering carbon: the broker that takes a cut when polluters pay’, The Guardian, 28 April 2008Google Scholar
Bayon, R., Hawn, A. and Hamilton, K., Voluntary Carbon Markets (London: Earthscan, 2007), p. 14Google Scholar
Capoor, K. and Ambrosi, P., State and Trends of the Carbon Market 2008 (Washington DC: World Bank, 2008)Google Scholar
Bumpus, A. and Liverman, D., ‘Accumulation by decarbonisation and the governance of carbon offsets’, Economic Geography, 84(2) (2008), 127–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, K., The Carbon Neutral Myth: Offset Indulgences for your Climate Sins (Amsterdam: Carbon Trade Watch, 2007)Google Scholar
Slade, L., ‘A bank's perspective on the voluntary carbon market: from risk to opportunity – the HSBC carbon neutral experience’, in Bayon, R., Hawn, A. and Hamilton, K.. (eds.) Voluntary Carbon Markets, (London: Earthscan, 2007), p. 96Google Scholar
Adam, D., ‘You feel better, but is your carbon offset just hot air?’, The Guardian, 7 October 2006Google Scholar
Smith, K., The Carbon Neutral Myth: Offset Indulgences for your Climate Sins (Amsterdam: Carbon Trade Watch, 2007)Google Scholar
Capoor, K. and Ambrosi, P., State and Trends of the Carbon Market (Washington DC: World Bank, 2006)Google Scholar
Hamilton, K., Sjardin, M., Marcello, T. and Xu, G., Forging a Frontier: State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2008 (Washington DC: Ecosystem Marketplace and New Carbon Finance, 2008)Google Scholar
,CCBA, Climate, Community and Biodiversity Project Design Standards, second edition. (Arlington, VA: Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance, 2008)Google Scholar
Smith, K., The Carbon Neutral Myth: Offset Indulgences for your Climate Sins (Amsterdam: Carbon Trade Watch, 2007)Google Scholar
Capoor, K. and Ambrosi, P., State and Trends of the Carbon Market 2006 (Washington DC: World Bank, 2006)Google Scholar

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