Carbon offsetting – way forward or way round?

At Nature Travels we offer all our clients the chance to make their flight to Sweden “climate neutral” through the payment of a small surcharge (currently £3.50 for a UK-Sweden return flight).

But what is “carbon offsetting”, what does “climate neutral” mean, and why is it worth £3.50 of my money?

No-one who follows the news could fail to be aware of the increasing priority given to climate issues in the UK and globally – many feel it is the single greatest environmental challenge facing us. Each time you turn on the heating, drive the car, or take a flight, CO2 is released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. After years of debate, there is now overwhelming evidence to suggest that human activities are having a dramatic and potentially catastrophic effect on the climate.

Offsetting the CO2 emissions produced by your holiday means paying someone (in our case, our partners Climate Care) to remove an amount of CO2 from the atmosphere equivalent to that generated by your trip. In this way, the emissions you have caused can be “neutralised” or “balanced”, making your trip effectively “climate neutral”. The cost of a sandwich seems a small price to pay, doesn’t it?

Svartadalen lake

Is it really that easy?

No, not really. Climate Care, like a growing number of similar organisations, offsets your emissions by funding projects around the world. These may be in the areas of:
· Renewable energy – research into alternatives to polluting fossil fuels such as coal and oil.
· Energy efficiency – working to reduce the amount of fuel needed for certain activities (e.g. cooking in developing countries).
· Reforestation – trees absorb and fix CO2 and so are a vital tool in the fight against climate change. Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change for two reasons: the burning of forests releases greenhouse gases in itself, and removing the trees means they are no longer available as carbon fixers.

But does my flight really make a difference?

Yes. A return flight London to Stockholm generates 0.33 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. By comparison, driving 10,000 miles per year in a petrol engine car at 35mpg generates around 3 tonnes of CO2.

BUT, your choice of destination is extremely important – if you chose to spend your holiday in Australia, a return flight London to Sydney would generate an astonishing 5.6 tonnes of CO2 per passenger – 17 times more!!!

So, if I offset, can I fly as much as I like without feeling guilty?

Well, no. Offsetting is one way to make your holiday more environmentally friendly, and does make a very positive contribution, but reducing your personal “carbon footprint” should also be a high priority – not just on holiday, but in all everyday activities. Watch out for the next post, when we’ll be discussing how we can all reduce our carbon footprint.

What do you think about carbon offsetting? Do you offset other things apart from flights (e.g. the emissions from your car)? We would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Kind regards

The Nature Travels Team

For more information on carbon offsetting, see www.climatecare.org
For information on how to offset your flight to Sweden when you travel with Nature Travels, see http://www.naturetravels.co.uk/ecotourism.htm

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