The allegations that carbon offsets harm the environment, heard yesterday by the Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, and made by organisations including FERN (Forests and the European Resource Network) and the environmental think tank, Corner House, are ill thought out and jeopardise years of work to protect against the loss of critically endangered habitat and the effects of climate change.
Properly run offset projects can directly remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, permanently store it and prevent it from having any further global warming effects. There are many carbon offsetting organisations with good reputations and, whilst some are run by people more interested in money than the environment, to taint all of them with the same brush will stifle one of the few opportunities available to tackle climate change.
Tree planting is one type of project that does remove carbon directly from the air and reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. As the trees grow they store significant amounts of carbon in their woody mass. Soil also has a large capacity to store carbon and a growing tree will help this. Whilst some reforestation projects suffer from problems of permanence, these can be avoided by protecting the forest indefinitely.
The World Land Trust is a UK registered charity; it is a not-for-profit-organisation and has over 17 years experience running conservation and reforestation projects around the world. WLT offset projects regenerate forests previously cleared by others, typically for agriculture. Native tree species are used to restore the areas to their previous natural condition and the emerging forests are protected indefinitely, providing habitat for critically endangered species.
As the sceptics point out, this is not an emissions reduction, but then no carbon offsetting provider would argue that it were. Nor would they argue that emissions reductions are not necessary when it is obvious that over-consumption of natural resources by the western world is the reason that we already find ourselves suffering the consequences of climate change. But those consequences are serious - does it make sense for people in the public eye to make loose statements jeopardising projects that are making a real difference?