Tuesday, 31 August 2010
For those of you who enjoyed the bank holiday Monday, happy short week!
As planned, I made a light, velvety, delicious chocolate mousse, which was entirely overshadowed by the most spectacular dessert my friend Kevin served for his birthday. I will now work on surpassing his chocolate brownie gooey cake/cookie thing - evidence of which I fail to supply, as I was too busy scoffing it down.
Let’s say I am feeling guilty about my recent holiday in New York. The carbon offset page on the British Airways website informs me the 1 ton of CO2 I burnt, squeezed as I was in an under-ventilated box, will cost me £10.00 in contributions to UK government-certified carbon offset programmes. The money will go towards wind farms and hydro-electric power plants. I’m not sure how wise it is to limit carbon damage by threatening wildlife habitats with the construction of hydro-electric plants, but this may be the subject of a future post.
The same trip would cost me £14.24 in carbon offsetting with Virgin Atlantic, while United Airlines will settle the matter for anything between £12.00 and £20.00, allowing passengers to choose between international reforestation, renewable energy or the Gold Standard, widely considered the most efficient methodology, focusing mainly on renewable energy projects.
As with anything else around global warming, its causes and solutions, there are as many opinions as you care to listen to out there. I can’t tell you why there is an almost 50% difference between the offset cost from BA and Virgin Atlantic for the exact same route.
There’s another question : my flight to New York and back would cost me between £436 and £560. Various taxes and airport charges amount for £215 of that price. I’m not convinced that my carbon offset share shouldn’t already come from the almost 50% tax portion of my ticket. It may be the case that the airline industry has gone to hell and back over the last decade. It is also true that we all breathed a sigh of relief when airport operators BAA cancelled their strike over staff pay at the last minute recently. But I’m still paying exorbitant prices for a cup of coffee at any international airport, and commercial rent prices at Heathrow are notoriously astronomical, with retailers queuing up to score a shop space in terminal 5. This can only mean that airports must be good business. Shouldn’t any carbon offset programme be heavily subsidised by these businesses, which stand to lose a lot should air travel cease to exist?
And then there is the reliability of the offset projects chosen by individual airlines. According to Marcelo Theoto Rocha, academic and researcher into climate change, carbon offset initiatives financed solely by the customer should be avoided:
"Most of the costs for neutralising carbon emissions should be met by the airlines. Companies should also offer details of reliable projects they’re involved with.
Personally, I don’t contribute, as I’m yet to find an adequate project associated with any of the airlines I normally fly with."
What about other industries? If we’re going to demomise airlines for their naughty polluting ways, why not add a carbon offset option at the Amazon checkout (paper = fallen trees), supermarkets (fruit, veg and meat = deforestation, pesticide, transport), car dealerships, petrol stations, utilities bills?
That’s what I’m choosing to do. What about those £10 that British Airways suggests I pay as green tax? I’m saving them for that far away day when I finally get to turn left as I board, to a world of free flowing champagne and reclining chairs sprinkled with golden dust.
*Read more on available carbon offset standards and vendors: