Suspect carbon offsetting

I recently received a press release from a company called My Emissions Exchange. I get lots of press releases – mostly about ethical shampoo and that sort of thing – but this one caught my eye.

‘MyEEX’ (no relation to German energy exchange EEX I assume) sells carbon offsets. The ‘projects’ behind the carbon offsets are individuals who reduce their home energy bills. You can sign up to MyEEX, enter your baseline bill, reduce your energy use, enter your new bill and MyEEX will create carbon credits that represent the reductions. They will then sell the credits on voluntary offset market – not sure who to – and return some proportion of the money to the individual.

For those of you familiar with the concept of additionality, alarm bells will be ringing. How do we know the baseline bill is not unusually high? How do we know the individual would not have reduced their energy use anyway (making the carbon offsets irrelevant)? Why do people need to be paid to reduce their bills? Who are the buyers anyway?

When I saw this I assumed it was an enterprising but poorly conceived project that probably wouldn’t get that far, but today I spotted a very promotional article in The Times!

“People really want to make a difference by cutting down their carbon emissions, but at the moment it’s all very woolly and they’re not seeing anything concrete from their efforts,” said Paul Herrgesell, the company’s project manager.

“This will let people actively track their energy usage and make money at the same time, both of which will motivate people and make them more aware of their carbon emissions.”

Herrgesell said the firm is hoping to expand the website to measure all types of personal carbon emissions, but is using households bills as a starting point.

“Our vision is to cover personal carbon footprints produced by car and air travel, and even, eventually, food and services,” said Herrgesell.

Bonkers!

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7 Responses to “Suspect carbon offsetting”

  1. Bonkers! I presume that’s a wildly enthusiastic endorsement. If I have misinterpreted the meaning of the colorful linguistic flourish, many apologies and I offer the following: people do things for many reasons: they’re nice people, they’re ethical, they care about the sustainability of the planet and sometimes they need money. the only proven sustainable motivation listed above is the last one: if “they need money” they’ll do things repeatedly. if people can get paid for reducing their emissions there’s a greater chance their efforts will be sustainable rather than a flash in the pan or a temporary fad. i guess people can moan and whine that such an effort won’t amount to squat but carping from the sidelines is like hoping a cure for a serious ailment won’t work because you don’t like the sound of the ingredients. bonkers.

  2. Thanks for your comment Norbit. My concern is less about the reductions made by the individuals (after all the impact of the scheme on them can’t be worse than zero) and more about the quality of the credits it’s selling. The success of myeex must rely on finding buyers for the credits. I’m sure you’re aware of all the criticisms of the voluntary market and it seems these credits are particularly susceptible to them. Do you have any plans for who your buyers will be?

  3. I hope Norbit is not a representative of myEEX, because he doesn’t really understand what carbon credits are, or what additionality is, or the meaning of the word bonkers.

    Paying people to reduce their emissions – that’s fine.

    Creating carbon credits from those savings and then selling them on voluntary carbon markets – utterly utterly bonkers.

  4. Unbelievably there is now another service like this called ‘Earth Aid’! They say they will sell their offsets to ‘companies who are prepared to pay a premium to support American homes’ or something similar…

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  6. Veronica Luna Says:

    You guys should check out SEIIAN, a green action bank. Its a new platform I understand. The quantification methodologies for personal carbon credits is robust and follows the principles of the VCS and GHG Protocol. Worth a look.

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