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Offsetting won’t get us to net zero, says AEF in response to government consultation

AEF responded to the Department for Transport’s consultation Carbon offsetting in transport: a call for evidence which closed on 26 September 2019. The consultation outlined a proposal to require all air travel providers and other providers of ticketed travel to give passengers the option to buy a carbon offset for their journey. In our response we said:

  • We agree with the Committee on Climate Change’s view that the UK should not plan to meet is climate change obligations using international offset credits[1], and with the EU’s decision to exclude international offsets from its Emissions Trading System.
  • While voluntary offsetting by individuals may help to finance worthwhile low-carbon projects, good quality offsets can be hard to come by. A European Commission review in 2016 of the Clean Development Mechanism, for example, found that only 7% of the projects that could be eligible for use by EU states in complying with climate obligations had a high likelihood of delivering carbon reductions beyond what would have happened anyway.
  • More fundamentally, in a net zero future every country and every sector will need to get emissions to zero – there will be no room for offsetting. UNEP’s position, that carbon offsets be seen only as “a temporary measure leading up to 2030”[2] reflects this. 
  • Offsetting risks distracting from the need to rein in aviation demand in order to tackle emissions. The cheap cost of offset credits at present could actively undermine an ambition to ensure the public is better informed about the scale of aviation’s environmental impacts, and the sector’s ability to adequately reduce its emissions in line with the UK’s net zero commitment.

The full consultation can be accessed here. Our response to the consultation is available here.

[1] We note that the Government has said that while it has not legislated to exclude international offset credits under the Act, it does not intend to use them.

[2] https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/carbon-offsets-are-not-our-get-out-jail-free-card