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Government committee critical of airline's carbon offsets

Ecologist

23rd July, 2007

The Environmental Audit Committee has slammed the aviation industry for a ‘diverse and generally unsatisfactory attitude’ towards their misuse of carbon offsets.

In a new report into the carbon offset market, the Committee singled out British Airway’s attempts at offsetting as ‘risible’. Since including a link to offsetting company Climate Care into its online booking process, BA passengers have only bought some 1,600 tonnes of offsets – roughly equivalent to four return flights to New York on a Boeing 777.

The report blamed this poor response on the company’s failure to make the offsetting option more visible in the booking process. Despite promising to amend this, the airline had not made any changes to its website by time the Environmental Audit Committee released its report.

The authors also expressed their ‘dismay’ that the airlines appeared not to understand the difference between carbon offsetting - where carbon credits are bought voluntarily to repair for the damage done to the atmosphere – and carbon trading – where a cap or limit is imposed upon an airline’s emissions and above that carbon credits must be bought or sold in a regulated and constricted marketplace.

The report concludes that offsets do have a role to play in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but that they should be made a ‘compulsory choice’ on air travel, as well as more transparent and better regulated. The authors stressed that offsets should not be seen as an excuse for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist July 2007

 

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