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The trouble with “Carbon Offsetting”

“Carbon offsetting” sounds great: continue to use fossil fuels and simply “balance out” the carbon emissions by planting trees and protecting forests. Business as usual. No wonder that airlines and oil companies love talking about them! Problem solved, right?

Wrong. Carbon offsetting projects using trees and forests simply don’t deliver what they promise, and worse, they’re a distraction from the real solution to climate change – that is, a real reduction in carbon emissions entering the atmosphere. Carbon offsetting schemes are simply public-relation schemes for increasingly eco-conscious consumers, and shift the focus off carbon-polluting industries.

Here’s the problem. Carbon in fossil fuels is “fixed” underground for the long term whereas the carbon in vegetation is in a constant carbon cycle. Using fossil fuels releases more carbon into the atmosphere which can be used by trees, *but* when a tree dies the carbon contained in its tissues returns to the atmosphere. Yes trees absorb carbon but as part of a dynamic cycle: carbon only passes through trees and so trees can’t “cancel out” (aka. offset) the fossil fuel emissions to which they are linked.

Don’t get us wrong. Planting trees and protecting forests really is a great thing to do, but we believe that we should be doing it as well as cutting carbon emissions, not as a substitute. Trees and forests do absorb carbon and so are part of the solution to climate change, but not in the way that “carbon offsetting” companies would like you to think. REFOREST continues to support worthwhile projects which give real benefits to people, nature and the environment, with the knowledge that all our trees also absorb atmospheric carbon during growth (*and release it on death*).

Read more:

https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate/does-carbon-offsetting-work

 

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