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Air and auto travel are big contributors to climate change. However, the companies offering these services certainly don’t want to lose any business. There are travel agencies that allow you to tack the cost of carbon offsets (sometimes known as “green tags”) onto the ticket price. Some think using “carbon offsets” will allow folks to travel in good conscience. Others go so far as to suggest you can even keep your SUV if you use carbon off-setting.

On the other side of the coin we find people warning that those who join the new fashion for buying carbon offsets will be urged by the Government today to check what they are buying before they hand over the money. Some schemes may be doing environmental damage in the developing world without curbing climate change.

Environmentalists also question the value of some of the schemes being sold by private companies. Large-scale tree planting can damage the environment and livelihoods in the Third World, especially where there is no variety in the species of tree being planted. “Buying forestry offsets does nothing to lessen society’s dependence on fossil fuels, something that is ultimately needed to address climate change,” said Kirsty Clough, of the World Wildlife Fund.

Here’s the concept:
* Carbon offsetting is a way to neutralize the carbon emissions you emit when you drive or fly. You can buy a certain amount of “offset units” equivalent to the carbon the activity creates, and hence become “carbon neutral.”

* Offsetting is performed by organizations that channel funds directly to carbon-reducing projects, such as installing solar panels in African villages, investing in wind power on Native American reservations, and simply planting trees.

Here are some resources:
* Consumers’ Guide to Retail Carbon Offsets (.pdf) - report on how the different carbon offsetting companies measure up.

* What is carbon-offsetting?

* Eco-business links

* Certified Carbon Credits and Voluntary Carbon Credits

* Better World Club offers free carbon offsets on two domestic and one international flight each year to members who book plane tickets through its in-house travel agency. (Nonmembers worldwide can purchase offsets — $11 for a domestic flight and $22 for an international flight).

* If you want to just buy offsets independent of your air ticket, visit Sustainable Travel International.

* Organizations such as NativeEnergy allow customers to calculate and purchase air and auto offsets through wind certificates.

So before you buy remember caveat emptor. And ask yourself is carbon-offsetting really a pay to pollute scam?

Previous blog posts: Is carbon neutral a pay to pollute scam?

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