What’s the best form of carbon offsetting? by Leo Hickman

6/7/2010 Guardian Please can you give me some direction on my travelling problem.My husband and I are British, but have lived near Geneva, Switzerland, for the past seven years for
work. We also have a three year old son. My problem is flying back to the UK: it
is very important to the whole family to see grandparents, aunts, uncles and
godparents who live in the UK and we end up flying back to the UK about five
times a year. Obviously, we also use Skype as much as possible, but like our son
to see people in the flesh, too. For work reasons, we sometimes have to limit
our trips to long weekends so driving back or taking the train becomes very
difficult, as it is a very long journey for a short amount of time. I would like
to offset my carbon emissions, which I understand is obviously not the same as
not flying, but am concerned that my money goes into proper schemes which do
have benefits. Do you and your readers have any ideas (having read previous
columns I am ready to get properly lambasted for flying at all…)
Kate Shepherd, by email
Thanks for this question, Kate. It’s a very common problem and one my colleague
George Monbiot has described as “love miles”: the “distance you must travel to
visit friends and partners and relatives on the other side of the planet”. But
rather than concentrate on the rights and wrongs of this debate in particular -
even the most committed environmentalist would struggle over this problem, I
fancy - let’s concentrate here on the issue of whether there are any “proper”
forms of carbon offsetting out there.
I’m on the record as not exactly being a fan of carbon offsetting, but I, like
Kate, would be interested in hearing other people’s views on this controversial
topic, in particular, whether you feel any offsetting companies are actually a
force for genuine good. Good words are often expressed about the likes of the
World Land Trust and Germany’s Atmosfair, but what are your own views? Are you
reassured by the government’s efforts to introduce a “quality assurance scheme”
for carbon offsetting?
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