Environmental Audit Committee

23 July 2007 The Voluntary Carbon Offset Market

23 July 2007 The Voluntary Carbon Offset Market

Encouragement and assistance should be given to individuals, organisations and companies to offset because it can play a part in mitigating CO2 emissions levels over the short term, the Environmental Audit Select Committee has concluded.

In its report into The Voluntary Carbon Offset Market published today the Committee recognises that elements of the carbon offsetting market are less than robust but says it is unfortunate that offsets as a whole currently risk this taint from a few failed projects. The Committee is also disappointed by what it calls ₓthe diverse and generally unsatisfactory attitudeâ‚? of the airline industry towards offsetting. For example, British Airways' initiative in this area has been risible, it says.

Key points from the Report on the Voluntary Carbon Offset Market by the Environmental Audit Committee include:

—? Carbon offsets have a role to play in cutting carbon emissions and raising awareness of climate change (para 23)

—? Encouraging offsets must not inhibit increased efforts to cut emissions (para 28)

—? Research is needed to find out if buying offsets makes people more or less determined to cut their own carbon footprint (para 28)

—? Airlines must make it easier for passengers to buy offsets (para 121)

—? Government should compel the most carbon-intensive businesses to offer offset services (para 25)

—? Individuals should be given a compulsory-choice option for offsetting when procuring carbon intensive goods and services (para 25)

—? Government and business must agree the definition of "carbon neutral" when applied to business and develop appropriate audit standards (para 31)

—? Greater transparency is needed in the offset market (para 44)

—? Using robust offset schemes to preserve existing forests should be encouraged (para 91)

The Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee Tim Yeo said: ₓWe are concerned that prospects for growth in carbon offsetting, and the accompanying benefits in terms of lower global emissions, are being held back by suspicions that a lack of regulation and transparency in the market is allowing some schemes to be promoted which do not achieve acceptable outcomes. This is a pity in view of the contribution offsetting can make to tackling climate change.

ₓThe UK has the opportunity to lead the world in developing robust and helpful guidance. An effective government code of practice which endorses meaningful offsets could assist people in choosing the best way to offset their emissions.

ₓThe UK's financial and carbon markets have much to gain from a rapid growth in what is increasingly seen as a vital component of commercial activity and corporate responsibility.â‚?

The Committee recognises there has been bad publicity and bad practice concerning a few forestry-based offset schemes or the way in which they were sold. One of these was the negative publicity given to a project in Karnataka sponsored by the music band Coldplay and their fans to offset the emissions from their concerts.

However, the Committee concludes some of the most rigorous and environmentally beneficial of all carbon offset projects come from the stewardship of tropical forests and the well-judged re-forestation or afforestation of land in the tropics.

The recent scientific debate about the albedo effect and the northern temperate forests and the often inaccurate reporting on this subject is another distraction from the undoubted good that forests provide for the climate, says the Committee.

The Committee welcomes the current DEFRA consultation which it says offers the opportunity for the Government to bring forward measures not just to encourage responsible and robust offsetting but also to set out clear criteria which offsets ought to meet. It however recommends that the Government should allow for the approval of both Certified Emissions Reductions (CERS) and Verified Emissions Reductions (VERs) within the DEFRA scheme as long as they meet appropriate criteria

Notes for Editors

The Report published today by the EAC is its Sixth Report of Session 2006-07, The Voluntary Carbon Offset Market, HC 331. Details of all the Committee's press releases together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's website at: www.parliament.uk/eacom

The Committee has also fairly recently published its Second Report, The EU Emissions Trading Scheme: Lesson for the Future, HC70, which included some aspects of offsetting within the EU ETS. In 2005 the current EACs' predecessor Committee published its Fourth Report, The International Challenge of Climate Change: UK Leadership in the G8 and EU, HC105, which dealt with some issues relating to the CDM.