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Sunday
Feb122017

Personal carbon offsetting 2017

TL;DR

I’m buying Gold Standard offsets from South Pole Group now. If you want to offset your own emissions, try estimating them using the EPA’s Australian Greenhouse Calculator. Then use the South Pole Group website to buy credits – ideally Gold Standard, but Verified Carbon Standard are probably also fine.

***

After posting about my experience buying personal carbon offsets in 2011 and 2012, I have been remiss in describing later purchases.

As I flagged in 2012, I switched to Climate Friendly – they supported smaller quantities and had a functional, if unspectacular interface, with simple options to offset flights, car travel, the emissions of an ‘average’ Australian, etc.. Selecting Gold Standard credits was a bit of a pain, but a feature I really appreciated was the ability to sign up for recurrent purchases – an ongoing subscription, if you like.

Last year Climate Friendly announced they would relaunch their webshop. It was offline for months and months, and when it returned it no longer offered Gold Standard offsets or recurrent purchases. On inquiry, I was referred to the South Pole Group for Gold Standard purchases. I’ve recently begun to suspect the relaunch (downgrade) of the webshop was part of the larger redirection of Climate Friendly’s strategy – this month they announced they were exiting the carbon offset business and focusing purely on local (Australian) carbon projects

In the course of this redirection, Climate Friendly sold its carbon offset business to South Pole Group.

Moving to the South Pole

So, what are South Pole Group like?

Their webshop won’t win any design awards, but it’s functional. (In fact, I think Climate Friendly’s original site was essentially a re-skinned version of this.) There are options to calculate offsets for flights, other travel, energy, and other specific activities. I tend to go directly for “tonnes of CO2” option and buy as many tonnes as I can afford – I’ve previously calculated that putting aside around $10/week should let me comfortably cover my attributable emissions (including domestic flights, but excluding electricity – I buy 100% GreenPower).

If you want to calculate your own lifestyle’s emissions, try the EPA’s Australian Greenhouse Calculator.

According to the EPA’s calculator, my domestic emissions are roughly 15tCO2-e/year including power – I think it’s overestimating my power consumption by around 1/3rd (7.2t vs. actual 5.3t), but the other figures seem plausible. Food emissions are estimated at 6.4 tCO2-e/year, which feels high, but I don’t have much expertise in that area. Perhaps I’m putting in incorrect values – or perhaps my diet is that unsustainable! A worrying thought.

If the estimates are correct, my non-stationary-energy GHG emissions are around 8 tCO2-e per year. Including stationary energy would take me to 13 tCO2-e per year; my per capita ‘share’ of Australia’s emissions is about 20 tCO2-e (slightly out of date figures).

South Pole Group offer offsets from Gold Standard Verified Emission Reduction (GS VER) projects, Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Standard (CCBS) projects, Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) projects, and Social Carbon Standard projects. These include projects for reforestation in Colombia, cooking stoves in Honduras, landfill gas capture in China, and renewable energy in Turkey, Taiwan, or Indonesia. A brief explanation of the standards and further links are here: http://www.thesouthpolegroup.com/project-development-standards

As before, I have chosen the Gold Standard VERs. After years supporting various renewable energy projects, though, I’ve switched: while a project recycling bicycles in Africa was appealing, I’ve chosen the less sexy project distributing efficient woodstoves in Honduras. (In part out of sympathy for my energy efficiency brethren in other countries. Also because the bicycle thing was significantly more expensive.)

 South Pole Group have a neat option to “commit to a 2° path”. They write,

“As the international [climate] negotiations are taking way longer than reasonable, we are now facing a situation where climate neutrality is no longer enough. Due to the historical emission track record of the OECD and developing countries, it is the industrialized worlds’ job to bring the world on track. But with economic development picking up quickly in the developing world, the 2° goal can no longer be achieved even by reducing OECD emissions to zero or going climate neutral. Therefore South Pole is offering the option to compensate for emissions in a way that would achieve the 2° goal if adopted by all industrialized countries.

We calculated the amount of emission reductions needed in developing countries on top of climate neutrality in the industrialized world based on IEA and World Bank data and found that they are equivalent to 2.5 times the amount of the emissions of industrialized countries.

If you commit to a 2° path, you offset 2.5 times your emissions, and the wordings “committing to a 2° path” will appear on your certificate.”

I quite like this idea. Unfortunately, with Gold Standard offset prices around $24/t my budget of $520/year isn’t quite enough to cover 2.5 times my own emissions – let alone 2.5 times my per capita ‘share’ of Australia’s emissions!

My conclusion from all this is that South Pole Group are a sufficient seller of carbon offsets and I should consider increasing my carbon offset budget.

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