The deal with carbon credits
(Editor’s note: This letter was originally addressed to columnist Janet Urquhart, author of “Offset my carbon – no really,” printed on Aug. 31.)Dear Editor:Your suspicion of carbon offsets is right on (offsets are coming under growing scrutiny), but the nuance you missed in your essay today is that the Canary program was created expressly to address the questionable “feel good” offsets you are concerned about. In short, the program is designed to make emissions reduction happen – that’s why the cost of the offsets is much higher than some other efforts. To that point, the program will in fact do things like install solar hot water on your house – it’s very much the intent of the initiative. That installation, or others, would not happen without the sale of offsets, which means that they actually represent new emissions reduction.Offset programs have never been designed as THE solution – they are what you do when you’ve done everything else. For example, at Aspen Skiing Co., we could do all the efficiency possible, buy all the renewables possible, but we’d still have a carbon footprint. This is true of virtually every business or individual. That’s where the carbon offset comes into play; and that’s why you have to be sure to buy GOOD offsets. The Canary offsets are very high quality. (I can explain why, but won’t here.)Finally, the idea you suggest of going on a diet so that someone in a poor country can eat isn’t absurd at all – it’s essentially what we need to do as a country. The U.S., with 4 percent of the world’s population, uses 25 percent of the world’s natural resources. So in fact when we become more efficient by going on an energy diet, we are leaving some of those limited resources for the rest of the world, which poor countries need to develop and solve critical problems like supplying clean water and basic health care. This is where efficiency and climate action becomes a moral in addition to an environmental issue.Auden SchendlerExecutive director,Community and Environmental ResponsibilityAspen Skiing Company
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