I represented Clear at the 2nd meeting of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Carbon Offsetting (QAS) Advisory Forum in Whitehall yesterday. It was a good meeting with lots of progress made on the action points from the last one. Unfortunately I think it would be remiss of me to go into much detail in advance of the official minutes being published, but I can tell you some of the views our organisation holds and which were brought up by us for discussion.
Clear thinks that promoting carbon offsetting and dispelling misinformation should be an explicit part of the Scheme’s vision for success. Recent consumer surveys confirm that the public need more convincing on climate change. Social marketing is going to prove as vital for widespread behavioural change as it has been for improving school dinners or making drunk driving socially unacceptable. People need more information on how carbon offsetting reduces carbon emissions more than just reducing their own footprint.
Many of our clients have asked us if they can use the QAS Quality Mark on their own sites once they have bought QAS carbon offsets. We think that this is a good idea for several reasons, provided the mark is accompanied by appropriate information such as the activity that was offset and the timespan that the offset covered. We are hopeful that there may be some progress with this soon.
We also think that organisations using the Quality Mark should be forced to demonstrate that they have reduced their footprint before offsetting, and this should be part of the mandatory criteria for usage. In our experience organisations who offset have always reduced their footprint first as they should, but mandating this as part of the requirements of the scheme would send a powerful message to those such as Greenpeace who continually peddle speculation that this is not the case. It’s worth noting the only evidence I have seen on this matter was the Terrapass survey in the States which showed that offsetters tend to have smaller footprints than the national average.
The UNFCCC have already closed the effective loophole in the Clean Development Mechanism caused by non-additional HFC reduction projects in China. Clear suggested that these projects are made unavailable to providers selling QAS-approved offsets.
Clear was interviewed recently by the BBC for their upcoming Rip Off Britain series. While historically some carbon offsets were undoubtedly rips offs in the bad old days, a huge amount has been done to clear up the industry and the QAS is leading efforts to return confidence to the carbon offset marketplace. Clear thinks it is important that the legitimate and vital role of carbon offsetting is portrayed accurately in the media.
Finally of 70 tweets I found on the DECC Twitter channel between July 24th and the advisory forum meeting, not one mentions carbon offsetting. DECC has done a great deal to improve communication on carbon offsetting over the past few months but there is still more to be done.
The minutes from the meeting should be released over the next couple of weeks here.