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Due to the growing attention about our current climate emergency – much of it inspired by the iconic 16-year old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg – we are now seeing a huge increase in carbon offsetting. The “Greta Thunberg Effect” had previously been at work to drive increased sales of environmental children’s books, and now, it seems to be driving businesses and individuals to offset their emissions by putting their dollars into carbon-reduction projects such as reforestation in other countries.
Inspired by Greta Thunberg, who has raised the attention of our planet’s ecological crisis, organisations involved in carbon offsetting have seen as much as a four-fold increase in support for carbon mitigation over the past 18 months. Carbon offsetting projects include all transformative projects that reduce emissions in developing countries, such as providing biogas stoves in kitchens, improving access to clean water to reduce greenhouse gases generated from burning firewood to boil water, and forest restoration projects. ClimateCare, for instance, a company helping organisations offset residual carbon emissions, have seen their carbon offset support increase from 2 million tonnes to 20 million tonnes in just a year and a half. NGO Climate Stewards have also experienced a 156% spike in offsetting income annually.
“This year, the whole business of carbon offsetting has suddenly taken off…the numbers have more than doubled. We are seeing the Greta effect, the impact of Extinction Rebellion, the impact of the words of David Attenborough, the school strikes, all of these coming together,” said chair of Climate Stewards David Hughes.
In addition to more individuals subscribing to climate monthly subscription programs, businesses are making more effort to offset their operations’ emissions. Gucci, for example, have recently announced their entire supply chain and operations have become completely carbon-neutral through supporting forest conservation and tree-planting projects around the world. It comes amid the growing awareness among businesses that to remain competitive and attractive to an increasingly eco-conscious consumer base, they must start taking strides in sustainability.
Some critics of carbon offsetting have said that the practice allows big polluters and corporations to continue to fly, drive and use fossil fuels without instigating deeper changes to lessen their footprint. However, in recent years, highly regulated carbon reduction organisations that have been created with NGOs have helped to ensure the authenticity of projects and help track progress. In the midst of our climate emergency, despite this measure not going far enough to tackle the root cause of our emissions crisis, taking action to offsetting our carbon would be more beneficial no action at all.
In a recent talk on responsible travel in Hong Kong, at which Green Queen founder Sonalie Figueiras was a panelist, Impact Travel Alliance coordinator Vincie Ho recommended to opt for “reputable organisations that work with local projects, audited by third parties and have transparent progress reports so you know where your funds are going.”
Chooose, for instance, enables brands and people to fund reliable, United Nations-approved climate offsetting projects, such as the replacement of oil and coal with renewable energy infrastructure in developing countries. The platform also offers a carbon drawdown program, which stores captured air pollution in a long-term stable form, and individuals can participate through a monthly subscription. Since Chooose began, the service has reduced over 181 million kilograms of emissions all over the world.
Organisation Gold Standard has also been set up through a collaboration between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other NGOs help certify projects that are committed to sustainable development and have shown to reduce carbon emissions. Speaking on the efficacy of carbon offsetting, Gold Standard’s communications director Sarah Keugers said: “Everyone should be looking to reduce their emissions as much as possible first, but for most of us it is impossible at this time to reduce them to zero, so taking accountability and financing the reduction in emissions…is a way to accelerate the path to a low carbon economy.” According to Gold Standard, the “Greta effect” has brought in a four-fold increase of carbon offsetting income.
This isn’t the first time Greta has inspired environmentally-friendly actions. Amid the rise in popularity of the now-famous teenage activist, Sweden – her home country – invented a buzzword called flygskam to describe the guilt or shame associated with air travel. This has spurred an 8% increase in train passengers in Sweden in the first quarter of this year. Sales of children’s books about environmental issues have also doubled – again thanks to the “Greta effect,” according to publisher Nielsen Book UK.
Lead image courtesy of Getty Images.