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Obama Resurrects Carbon Offsets (Nobody Says Thanks)

The trend toward individual carbon offsets has slowed from the heady days of 2007. Things may be changing, however, and it’s not just the economy getting people interested in offsets.

Carbon offsets have not exactly gone away–take Google’s announcement in the summer of last year that it would offset 45,000 homes using carbon credits from landfill waste as a prime example. Nevertheless, with the recession taking its toll on all kinds of discretionary spending, anecdotal evidence would suggest that the trend toward individual carbon offsets may have slowed from the heady days of 2007. Terrapass, one of the industry leaders in carbon offsetting, would seem to back me up on this, reporting that they experienced a significant drop off in sales since late 2008. Things may be changing, however, and it’s not just the economy getting people interested in offsets. It seems Barack Obama may share some of the credit and/or blame, depending on which way you look at it.

Political Disillusionment Provokes Individual Action?
Writing over at Terrapass’ footprint blog, Mark Mondik talks about climate action rebound, and suggests that in addition to improving economic figures, a resurgence in offsets is being driven by disillusionment in Government-lead climate action:

“Consumer offset activity dropped off in late 2008 and 2009 for two main reasons, according to our periodic surveys. The first was financial […] The second was the hope that the new Presidential administration, once it took office in 2009, would lead us swiftly and decidedly to a clean energy future, replete with rapidly declining greenhouse gas emissions.

Today neither of those reasons appear as compelling as they once were. While there is still a long way to go in terms of economic recovery, many leading indicators such as job growth have been on the rise for several consecutive months or quarters. More importantly, with the “death of cap-and-trade” on a federal level in 2010, the U.S. government has little to show for its climate change policy objectives.”

Carbon Offsets Must Be Part of Broader Strategy

Carbon offsets have always been controversial, and I am sure there will be plenty of people who do not want to see a return to what they call “indulgences”. Most advocates of offsets, however, have always argued that they can only be effective as part of a broader strategy of engagement and action to both tackle emissions at source, and search for cost effective ways to bring down our societal emissions. If it’s true that offsets are once again on the economic menu for many individuals and families, maybe it means that a broader push for climate action is on the cards too.

Yeah, I’m an optimist.

[Image by Yodel Anecdotal]


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