Planting trees or building power plants?

This is my second post in a series of on carbon offsetting where I compare different providers and ways of carbon offsetting for a trip from Brussels to Stockholm. The first post was about how much carbon you need to offset for a tripThe second question comes to what type of offsetting to do. Basically there are two broad classes – the ones that are approved through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in the Kyoto protocol called Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) and ones that aren’t so called VERs (Verified Emission Reductions).  

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The CERs are usually big projects that have the financial and administrative resources to go through the rigourus certification process required. VERs are generally smaller projects and can be either in developing or developed countries (CDM is only for developing countries).

 For the VERs there is currently no single best standard, but rather a lot of different ones. The major ones seems to be the Gold Standard (with different subcertification for developing/developed countries etc.), the Voluntary Carbon Standard  and the VER+, where the first two seems to have the biggest backing. Additionally, there is one thing to watch out for – “tree planting projects“. These projects are the most controversial as what it basically is is a long term storage of carbon that will eventually be released again. The scientific basis of these seem to be under question, so I’d just choose to stay away from them. From the services I compared there was a range between those who said that their projects complied strictly to CDM (www.carbonpassport.comwww.clear-offset.com) to those that had an unspecified mix of projects conforming to any of the standards (www.climatecare.orgwww.greenseat.com), to those who also had their own projects not conforming to any of the standards (www.carbonneutral.comwww.nativenergy.com). For the spreadsheet I used to compare providers, you can see it here. Photo by: vax-o-matic.

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