Posted by keith on September 12th, 2008
Everyone loves carbon offsetting, don’t they? The environmental campaigner trying to green their lifestyle; the holiday maker cancelling out their flight emissions; the large corporation pretending that it is dramatically cutting its emissions…offset and the atmosphere is your oyster — everyone’s happy!
I’m kidding, of course.
Carbon offsetting is, well I don’t need to tell you what happens if you have a storage problem in your house and you build a big shed — it fills with crap, doesn’t it? If you’re producing thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide the metaphorical “shed” is a mixture of all the nice projects you’re sponsoring to build wind turbines, plant trees, send energy saving lightbulbs to the poor people and maybe throw a few tonnes of carbon dioxide underground for good measure. But it can’t happen properly unless you have some standards, and a nice catchy name, and a serious logo…as long as you are still running the show.
The Voluntary Carbon Standard is big industry’s answer to the age-old problem of keeping the economy growing by shifting the problem elsewhere. Short of bagging up all the CO2 thrown out by manufacturers, energy producers, deforesters, miners and countless other greenhouse gas producing activities, the VCS has allowed corporations to throw a massive cloak over their activities, all garnished with some lovely official ribbon:
“The Voluntary Carbon Standard Program (VCS Program) includes the standard (VCS 2007) and the Program Guidelines 2007. VCS Version 1 (v1) was released on 28 March 2006. VCS Version 2 (v2) was released on 16 October 2006 as a consultation document and did not replace VCS v1 as the applicable standard for project developers and validators and verifiers. The VCS v2 consultation document has been withdrawn. This is the VCS 2007 that replaces VCS v1 as the applicable standard. Additional guidance related to the VCS 2007 is included in the Program Guidelines 2007.”
That little snippet from http://www.v-c-s.org/docs/VCS%202007.pdf all sounds very formal and above board, and that’s because the companies involved in creating the documents do this kind of thing all the time in audits, accounts, projects and so on. As long as they stick to standards, no one can accuse them of trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.
But that sort of misses the point entirely. VCS is about offsets, not reducing emissions.
VCS was set up by The Climate Group (I mentioned their work here) and another “Astroturf” known as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which I will attack fervently in a future post, along with IETA, who basically provide the tools so that businesses can trade carbon (i.e. spend their way out of guilt).
It gets even more sinister when you look at the people who put the standards together:
The VCS Steering Committee volunteered long weeks of their company and personal time over a two year period to develop the VCS. The following people participated on the Committee:
* Jan-Willem Bode, Ecofys
* Derik Broekhoff, World Resources Institute
* Mike Burnett, Climate Trust
* Robert Dornau, SGS
* Steve Drummond, CantorCO2e
* Mitchell Feierstein, Cheyne Capital
* Yoshito Izumi (Observer), Taiheiyo Cement
* Mark Kenber, The Climate Group (co-chair)
* Adam Kirkman, WBCSD
* Andrei Marcu, International Emissions Trading Association (co-chair)
* Erin Meezan, Interface
* Ken Newcombe, Goldman Sachs
* Mark Proegler, BP
* Robert Routliffe, Invista
* Richard Samans, World Economic Forum
* Marc Stuart, Ecosecurities
* Einar Telnes, DNV
* Bill Townsend, Blue Source
* Diane Wittenberg, Californian Climate Action Registry
Just to the take the first 5 in the list (it’s in alphabetical order, and there’s no way of telling how much each person contributed):
Business sector energy advisors
World Resources Institute
Think tank that promotes economic growth as a “solution” to climate change
Large scale offsets seller
Business certification consultancy
Emissions trading platform provider
Can you see a pattern emerging here. Try looking at the others in the list, too: it’s all about business as usual, and we’re not fooled.
For more information on the folly of offsets, go to http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2006/10/19/selling-indulgences/