Offsetting CO2 for your flights

Jetting around in a plane is noflight flying plane air travelt good for the environment.

Yet this may be a guilt which you can dissolve with money. Or not.

Step 1 – How much CO2?

I thought this would be straightforward but it is not.

I googled ‘CO2 calculator’ and tried the first two sites which came up and looked trustworthy. I put in our all flight details in and got these results:

Hang on – how can they be out by so much? A 38% swing from the lower to the higher figure. This does not inspire trust. I then asked an expert friend of mine for a recommendation for a calculator and one of his was

Yet this gave results that were off the scale, for example this is just for Los Angeles to London for 4 people:

  • Climate Care – 4.81 tonnes
  • Carbon Footprint – 5.6 tonnes
  • Atmosfair – 23.08 tonnes

So at this point I’m confused. I decided to go with the 22.05 tonnes.

Step 2 – Offsetting the CO2

There is a whole industry around this now. If you thought this meant planting new, additional trees then that is both right and wrong. There appears too be debate as to what is the most effective. Atmosfair fund projects which reduce or change energy consumption rather than just planting trees – see this page. In fact they are explicit that they do not believe in planting trees:

“…… a forest has to exist for at least 50 to 100 years
to have a significant impact on climate change mitigation, but
there is no guarantee that the forest will still exist for this entire
period. Nor can the possibility be ruled out that trees are cut down
elsewhere to compensate because these kinds of projects cannot
solve the basic problem of high demand for resources.”

There is so much to learn about different types of intervention, the pros and cons of REDD+, Gold standards, the CDM and so on.

I am guided to the World Land Trust who do afforestation and their site is fairly convincing too.

I decide to split the CO2 between the two: Atmosfair and World Land Trust. Call it 12 tonnes each.

For Atmosfair this is 276 Euros and this project. This is a good ‘nudge’ – it makes it more believable that the money will actually go to something other than head office admin. The company is German and the national stereotype (efficient, honest) help my views of the business: rwanda

For the World Land Trust the 12 tonnes is £180, but I’m given no information about where this money will go. This seems like a pretty basic opportunity missed by the WLT.

Yet when the confirmation email and certificate comes from the WLT it gives me more information, including this link about where their projects are and what they do and this Carbon PB leaflet into the WLT activities.

As an example, their project in Brazil is in partnership with a local organisation working to protect the Atlantic Forest, which has been under pressure from destruction. With the people at REGUA they are funding land purchase and re-planting trees, with 110,000 trees planted so far. Read more here.

Step 3 – Monitoring how the ££ is spent

Hmm, this might be a little naive. Atmosfair have said they will ’email me about the progress of the project’ while WLT offer no ongoing updates. My donations, while big to me, are no doubt pretty tiny in the scale of the projects. I’m left with some reassurance that this offsetting will make a difference and yet still plenty of questions, not to mention a yawning gap in my knowledge of how the offsetting industry works.