Is carbon offsetting a trade in indulgences?

Many critics of the principle of carbon offsetting claim that compensation payments for carbon emissions are only useful for calming one's own conscience, but neglect the real challenge - namely the reduction of one's own carbon footprint. It is often assumed that we are dealing with a medieval indulgence trading in which we can redeem ourselves from our sins without having to change our behaviour.

However, scientific studies on this question come to a completely different conclusion. A research project coordinated at the University of Kassel in 2015 by Prof. Dr. Andreas Ziegler and Dr. Claudia Schwirplies concluded that users of carbon offsetting offers are characterized above all by an already high environmental awareness. Usually, climate action is also an important part in their everyday life and in their consumer decisions.

Prof. Ziegler explains: "Carbon offsetting is definitely not an indulgence trade, but allows the offsetting of hard-to-avoid emissions, which should lead to more climate action overall."

These results are published, here.

At GoClimateAction we fully support these results. It is always more sensible to offset carbon emissions today rather than waiting and actually avoiding them in 2050 or later. Avoidance must be done in the long term anyway, carbon offsetting today, however, helps to build a meaningful bridge until avoidance.