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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.

… announced the government’s ACT ON CO2 website today!

actonco2_2

Though the UK Government’s quality assurance scheme for carbon offsetting was quietly opened earlier this month, today saw the official launch of the scheme by the Department of Energy and Climate Change with this press release.

Here at Clear we are delighted to be the first and only offset provider to have all our offset products approved from the start, including our unique Carbon Audit Tool for business.  The Carbon Audit tool is easy to use and absolutely free to download from the Clear website here. The great thing about this tool is that it allows small to medium sized businesses to measure their carbon footprint without the need to pay for costly environmental consultancy services.

As part of the launch the DECC have also updated information in the ACT ON CO2 website to explain the new QAS scheme in more detail and list the approved offsets.

Quality Assurance Scheme for Carbon Offsetting

Quality Assurance Scheme for Carbon Offsetting

The first carbon offsets to be approved under the new Quality Assurance Scheme for Carbon Offsetting (QAS) were accredited by the UK Government today.  All seven products are supplied by Clear, the carbon offset company: Flights, Buildings, Vehicles, Motorbikes, Commuting, Skydiving and a Carbon Audit Tool for Business.

The QAS aims to bring confidence to the market for consumers and businesses who purchase carbon offsets for their residual carbon footprint after efforts to reduce.  Strict criteria have meant that many existing offsets, such as the non-Kyoto compliant VER certificates, have been excluded because of concerns about quality.  The trade body which represents offset organisations who sell VERs, ICROA, have unsurprisingly been vociferous in their criticism of the scheme.  Many of its members have substantial investments in VER projects which now face an uncertain future without the government’s backing.  This financial conflict of interest is readily apparent in their persistent public criticism of a scheme which matches or sets higher standards than its own code of conduct for the majority of criteria.

QAS criteria include:

  • The highest available standards for carbon footprint calculation
  • The highest available standards for carbon credits
  • Cancellation of carbon credits within 12 months in a national registry
  • Transparent pricing and information about reduction strategies in addition to the offsets themselves

International promotion of the scheme is planned by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) over the coming months as more providers reach the standards required and come on board.

Quality Assurance Scheme for Carbon Offsetting

Quality Assurance Scheme for Carbon Offsetting

The UK government finally opened their Quality Assurance Scheme for Carbon Offsetting (QAS) today.

The aim is to provide a tough and recognisable standard for carbon offsets to reassure consumers that the carbon offsets that they purchase actually acheive the reductions they are supposed to.

In spite of the recession, environmental concerns remain high on the international agenda.  Barack Obama announced huge investment in clean technology and the green sector earlier this week.  The Copenhagen meeting holds much promise for sustaining the efforts to tackle climate change that Kyoto initated.

Clear has been working closely with the AEA to reach compliance with the QAS and hope to be the first to have all its carbon offsets fully accredited very shortly.  I’ll keep you posted!

Lembit Opik, Segway role model

Lembit Opik, Segway role model

This morning at around 11:20 I set off from the Clear office in Wandsworth Common on a mission: to see if I could get arrested by driving our loaned Segway around central London.  Initially encouraged by previous efforts from luminaries such as Lembit Opik and Piers Morgan, I had to admit to feeling slightly nervous.  Segways remain technically illegal to use in public in the UK, in spite of being perfectly legitimate in the States, Germany, Italy and used by 400 police divisions worldwide.  However the relevant legislation (dating from 1835) has never been enforced, in spite of Lembit blatantly taunting the authorities by driving his up and down outside parliament.  Should be fine then.

After half a mile I hit my first problem: the railway bridge at Wandsworth Common.  Segways lose their balance on steep slopes and obstacles, including stairs.  However apparently its easy if you get off and help them up in power assist mode.  Easier still would be turning round and taking the 30 second detour over the road bridge but I’m determined not to be put off.  In fact, its a breeze.  You do have to pull the machine up, but most of the grunt is taken out of it (just as well – it weighs 43Kg).

By the time I hit Clapham Common I’m on a roll.  Trees and people whizz by.  The Segway copes well with grass and moderately rough ground, but on concrete paths it really excels.  Easy to stop too, which is handy for the Jack Russels and three year olds who appear to be out in force.

In the distance I spot my second problem – a park bench dead ahead with four teenagers sitting on it.  Perhaps the most noticeable thing about riding a Segway is the reaction you get from passers by.  Some people are amused; most are flabbergasted.  These teenagers will probably think I’m a cretin and throw their Buckfast at me.  50 yards and closing and one of them spots me.  “What the hell is that?” he yells, then silence.  I contemplate evasive action.  And then they start laughing. “What a TOY!”, “Wicked!”, “I want one”.  The Buckfast stays in its receptacles.

After what seems like 10 minutes, I pass the MI6 building at Vauxhall.  Stopping to chat with a cyclist, I wait for the lights to go green on Albert Embankment and before I know it I’m over the Thames and the Houses of Parliament are dead ahead.  So far so good.

Then I spot my first policeman.  In fact it looks like there’s scores of them.  Here we go.  I pass by the first two without them realising (Segways don’t make much noise), but then six police officers come into view and can’t fail to notice me.  I think of Lembit, stiffen my spine, and trundle forwards majestically (at 4mph).  Meanwhile I find myself surrounded by a crowd of American and Japanese tourists, all of whom begin to chorus oohs and aahs and set off their flashes as they take snaps.  Instantly I am reminded of the “Come on, what’s the worst thing that could happen?” Dr Pepper adverts as I await the first police whistle and the inevitable pandomonimum.

But it never happened.  I simply glided forwards, carefully avoiding the toes and cameras of the straggling mob until it was all behind me.  Whitehall was the same.  More police outside Downing Street, but no one raised their walkie talkie.  Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Chinatown, Picadilly: all the same.  Eventually my karma is slightly punctured when I high five someone and immediately come close to falling off.  Slightly embarassing that.

Once I’d been up and down Oxford Street I noticed that I’d done 8 miles and the battery was half flat.  Time to be getting home.  I circuited Marble Arch with all the buses and traffic and headed through Knighsbridge for the Fulham Road.  By the time I got back to Wandsworth Common the battery was almost flat, I’d been away for 2 hrs and 10 minutes and had covered 15 miles.  I plugged the machine back into the mains to recharge and attached Ben’s gadget to measure the juice (and therefore carbon).

So what to make of it all?  Well, it does appear that it isn’t just Lembit’s parliamentary privileges that allowed him to pull off that stunt outside parliament.  The police really don’t seem interested.  But more’s the point it really is an excellent way to travel.  It combines the best bits of walking (being able to take in your surroundings) with the speed of public transport and appears to be more fun than either.  One set-back – it was so cold today that the first thing I did when I got home was jump in a hot bath, thereby undoing all the carbon savings I made by using the Segway.  I’ll wrap up warmer next time.

On a more relevant note from the carbon perspective, Ben is currently analysing the carbon footprint variation between different modes of transport (including Segways, public transport and walking) and will blog on that soon.

Hi, and welcome to Clear’s first newsletter! There’s lots of exciting news, so without further ado…

Quality Assurance Scheme for Carbon Offsetting
Hot off the press – Clear’s entire range of carbon offsets are the first in the world to achieve compliance with the UK Government’s long-awaited Quality Assurance Scheme for Carbon Offsetting (QAS). That includes our two minute offsets as well as Clear’s more detailed calculators, and is the culmination of a great deal of hard work over many months. Thanks to DEFRA, the AEA, and Ben Hedley (who is now lying down in a dark room).

Official approval will of course have to wait until the scheme is launched, expected some time in the next week or two. We’ll let you know when the date is confirmed. Meantime you can find out more on the QAS here.

Our lovely new website

In case you hadn’t noticed, there have been some fairly big changes to
our website over the past few weeks. Two new blogs and a new-fangled content management system mean that Clear staff will now be updating the site far more regularly. We already got started by adding lots of detail on our first offsetting project in Brazil (which uses rice husks to make electricity), and by adding a large new section on the home page for news, blogs and opinion.

Clear also now supports multiple currencies, so our reach now extends all the way to Australia and Japan! We’re working on support for our customers in Europe who use Maestro.

New products

Clear has always tried to provide accurate offsets for a range of activities, rather than just the usual car, home, and flights abroad (for example motorbikes and commuting), but we’ve recently added two new ones – the business carbon audit tool and offsets for skydiving – and they’re both QAS compliant.

The Business Carbon Audit Tool is especially exciting because organisations have not previously had free access to an accurate methodology for auditing their carbon emissions. Clear’s spreadsheet changes all that – potentially saving small to medium size organisations thousands of pounds in consultancy fees. You can download it here hassle-free.

Thanks must go to Steve Baker, one of customers, for coming up with the other new idea of offsetting skydives. And respect for being brave enough to jump out the side of a perfectly good aircraft!

What do you think?

Clear prides itself on listening to our customers, like Steve Baker. So we’d like to hear from you too. Scribble your comments on any of our blogs, or you can send us ideas, thoughts or nice recipes to support@clear-offset.com.

Cheers!

Bruce Elliott
Chief Exec, Clear

Deja vu?

Ed Milliband takes over at the new Department for Energy and Climate Change

Ed Milliband takes over at the new Department for Energy and Climate Change

Of course we’ve been here before.  On the eve of the date mooted for the official launch of the UK Government’s new Quality Assured Offsetting Scheme (QAS), uncertainty persists on whether it will actually go live tomorrow or not.

Gordon Brown put the cat amongst the pigeons last Friday when he reshuffled the cabinet and created the new Department for Energy and Climate Change, headed up by Ed Milliband.  The timing adds uncertainty for the Quality Mark, as there is a strong possibility that it will now be delayed again while Mr Milliband catches up with his new portfolio.

So when now?  DEFRA continue to be as helpful as they can be in the circumstances and have indicated that approval will need to be sought from the new Secretary of State.  They have highlighted it as an urgent issue.

In the meantime Clear’s offsets are almost fully compliant with the new standard, with full accreditation pending the official launch.  Thanks must go to Ben Hedley, who has put a superhuman effort into getting all our calculators just right for DEFRA.  Hopefully this means that consumers will be able to offset their carbon footprints using the newly approved products very soon after the announcement.

We said we’d keep you up-to-date with progress towards the long-awaited UK Government Quality Assurance Scheme for Carbon Offsetting.

Well, it looks like we’re finally getting there.  Apparently details have now been finalised and forwarded to Hilary Benn for his approval.  I presume the release date will now depend on media planning at 10 Downing Street.

Clear aims to be the first carbon offset organisation in the world to provide carbon offsets which measure up to the new quality mark and we are already compliant with its stringent criteria.

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