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Simon Leufstedt

George Monbiot calls carbon-offset schemes "misleading" and "useless"

In an interview with Andy Harrison, the chief executive of easyjet, George Monbiot asks about the company’s carbon offsetting scheme:

I asked him about an issue that, as far as I can tell, no one has ever raised in public before: what discount rate does he use on his carbon-offset schemes? I know that no offset schemes have discount rates, which renders them – however well-intentioned – misleading and next to useless. The idea of offsetting is that you exchange the carbon emissions you make today for carbon reductions made a later date, somewhere else. Whether you pay for someone to plant trees or change lightbulbs, all the schemes take several years to mature. Tree planting can take 60 years or more to recover the carbon you've burned. But we don't have several years, let alone 60. Carbon cuts made today are more valuable than cuts made in the future, because with every year that passes, the chances of preventing runaway warming diminish. So if offsetting is to do what it says, it should be exchanging a small amount of pollution today for a much greater cut in the future, which reflects the lower value of the reductions made then. I don't know whether Harrison understood my question, but it became an opportunity for him to get himself into a right mess about what exactly he was offering.

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