Polluting? Think Carbon Offsets

I’ve been wondering about the carbon offset program since I read about Al Gore using the offset program to offset his home’s carbon footprint. So, naturally, instead of writing about it, I’m pointing to an article that talks about what is wrong with the carbon offset program.

In Carbon Offsets: Buying Your Way Out of Responsibility Dara Colwell (of AlterNet) writes:

A crucial element of the Kyoto Protocol is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which allows heavily industrialized northern countries to invest in carbon saving projects in the global south as an alternative to reducing their own emissions. There are many reasons for this, the first quite obvious: It’s cheaper. The same goes for many offset projects, which choose to invest in projects in Latin America, Africa and Asia. But, as environmentalists are quick to point out, it’s not cheap for the locals who suffer the impact.

A case in point is the band Coldplay, which offset recording its “A Rush of Blood” album with 10,000 mango saplings in Karnataka, India. The band urged fans to join in and offset trees with Carbon Neutral Co., the United Kingdom’s largest offset provider, also used by Al Gore. According to various media reports, nearly 40 percent of the saplings died, mostly because the dry, rocky village didn’t have an adequate water supply and there was no financial infrastructure in place to support it. And while the companies involved in the project got paid, the local peasants who maintained the trees did not.

According to the article, we’re the “beneficiary” of more stuff here in India:

For example, according to Reyes, in Raigarh city (in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh), sponge iron plants that pollute water from rivers and irrigation channels are being rebranded as CDM projects; in West Bengal, many firms that use the heat from kilns to generate electricity are now being paid carbon credits for their efforts, even though they continue to pollute groundwater supplies and the local atmosphere.

Let’s all pollute and buy carbon offsets in a region poorer than ours, or in an area where there is less vegetation, like the Thar.

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