Jonathon Porritt: Carbon offsetting can help achieve development goals

As part of a series on integrated carbon offsetting models the founder director of Forum for the Future discusses how NGOs are opening up to offsetting

Jonathon Porritt

I very much welcome this model, although it isn’t entirely new of course. When talk of offsetting first kicked off, organisations such as WWF always used to talk about «offsetting done well», by which they meant a social element being built into the approach. There has always been a sense that purely getting the tonnes of CO2 sorted was never good enough.

One of the challenges with this though is that there’s sometimes a mismatch in the way companies manage environmental and social issues. Those that see offsetting as a legitimate, strategic part of their total carbon management are much more likely to join the dots between the two than those who adopt a fairly superficial approach.

For any company looking to develop an approach like this, we’d always suggest that they go through a credible third-party offset provider. I know it looks easy to find the right projects, but in reality it’s quite hard.

And there are still concerns whether you get what it says on the tin, and a legit offset provider can offer you the level of confidence you need. Plus, you just get a better diversity of opportunities if you go through a provider.

Specialists such as ClimateCare can help companies work out which project meets their priorities, for example, or resolve how to use a project for internal or external communications.

It’s taken the development community quite a long time to see the real social value of good offsetting schemes. There was so much suspicion around offsetting that initially none of the international NGOs [non-governmental organisations] really wanted to play ball. But I think that’s changing now.

Another challenge is the additional costs that a more integrated model can bring. You have to negotiate with local communities, they have to help shape the project … this all leads to more time on the ground and, ultimately, more overheads. That can raise the price quite significantly.

The challenge for project providers therefore is to provide a social element to offsetting without a huge premium. Because they know if the price is too high then their potential customers will go back to a bog-standard approach.

As told to Oliver Balch

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Date / Fecha: 18/02/14

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