Your Questions Answered
Your Questions AnsweredQ1. What are Carbon Offsets?
A Carbon Offset is a mechanism for organisations and individuals to compensate for their unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions by subsidising the reduction activities of others. The key criterion for an offset is that this greenhouse gas reduction is additional to business-as-usual activity.
There are two types of carbon offset markets
- The regulated compliance market, which is linked to the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol and to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. These 'accredited' carbon offsets can be traded and used to offset legally binding targets.
- The voluntary carbon offset market, which is not bound by regulation and allows individuals and organizations to participate voluntarily in offsetting their emissions.
PopOffsets is a voluntary offset scheme, although we are working to achieve accreditation in the long term.
There are many standards now operating in the voluntary offset market which set different criteria, although most are based on the Kyoto Protocol. With no common standard for comparison it is difficult to assess their efficiency and efficacy.
It's not "either-or": we encourage you to do both. Offsetting should be considered complementary to reducing your emissions by adopting a greener lifestyle (insulating your home, cycling to work…). Offsetting provides a way to balance those emissions that you cannot reduce. There are many websites – some commercial, some official – which give tips on reducing your emissions: just search for “reduce my carbon footprint” or visit the Energy Saving or Carbon Trust. Sadly these sites ignore the most obvious solution – having small families through family planning! You may feel that what you do is just a 'drop in the ocean' - remember that 'the ocean is made of drops'.
1. The regulated compliance market, which is linked to the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol and to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. These 'accredited' carbon offsets can be traded and used to offset legally binding targets.
2. The voluntary carbon offset market, which is not bound by regulation and allows individuals and organizations to participate voluntarily in offsetting their emissions.
PopOffsets is a voluntary offset scheme, although we are working to achieve accreditation in the long term.
A Carbon Offset is a mechanism for organisations and individuals to compensate for their unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions by subsidising the reduction activities of others. The key criterion for an offset is that this greenhouse gas reduction is additional to “business-as-usual” activity.
There are two types of carbon offset markets;
- The regulated compliance market which is linked to the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Agreement and to EU Emissions Trading Scheme - these 'accredited' carbon offsets can be traded and used to offset legally binding targets.
- The voluntary carbon offset market which is not bound by regulation and allows individuals and organizations, which have no regulatory targets, to participate voluntarily in offsetting their carbon emissions.
Popoffsets is a voluntary offset scheme although we are running a campaign to achieve accreditation in the long term.
There are, in fact, many standards now operating in the voluntary offset market but with no common standard for comparison it becomes difficult for any individual to assess the level of efficiency.
Two standards appear to be gaining precedence, the Voluntary Carbon Standard and the Voluntary Gold Standard, both of which are supported by a wide range of different organizations, and OPT intends to review both standards and their suitability to our unique project program in the near future.
We encourage you to do both, it's not "either-or" and offsetting should always be considered complementary to the need for you to reduce emissions yourself by adopting a greener lifestyle (insulating your home, cycling to work etc.,) - offsetting provides a way to balance out those emissions that you cannot reduce.
The European Commission website http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/campaign together with http://www.mycarbonfootprint.eu give lots of tips about reducing your own carbon emissions, as do various government guidance documents around the world (although all ignore the most obvious - having small families through family planning!).
If you feel that all you are able to do is but a 'drop in the ocean' - remember that 'the ocean is made of drops'.
Offsetting is not a valid alternative to reducing one’s carbon emissions, which should always be a priority. However, offsetting sits alongside reducing one’s emissions as a contribution to limiting climate change. Moreover, slowing population growth is only one of a number of things that we have to do, including reducing waste, improving resource use efficiency, reducing inequality and reducing personal consumption.
We absolutely do need to reduce per capita consumption amongst wealthier communities. However, slowing population growth is not an alternative to this. They can sit alongside each other. Encouraging wealthier communities to reduce their per capita consumption and have a low family size is important. At the same time, we can help currently poor communities, whose living standards may well rise in time, to avoid unplanned pregnancies and thus future sustainability problems.
No. We believe that inequality should be reduced, poverty alleviated and developing nations supported in their development. However, many developed nations are being held back by very high population growth and by the early impacts of climate change. By helping people to avoid unplanned pregnancies in both developed and developing countries, we are making it easier for developing countries to progress.
We agree that we do not have the right to control other people's lives. We seek only to provide education and family planning services to enable people to decide for themselves the number and timing of their pregnancies. Access to family planning should be seen as a human right; it is the lack of quality family planning and sex and relationship education in both developed and developing countries which means that so many have pregnancies that they do not want or intend.
It is the case that some, though by no means all, poorer people and communities desire larger families. However, as population numbers rise and the supply of fertile land and available water falls, this is becoming less and less the case. Instead, the increasing number of people living in cities would rather have fewer children that they can afford to educate and look after.
The PopOffsets project does not direct funding towards abortion services. Good contraception reduces the number of abortions - we would like to make abortion history..
There are plenty of other highly relevant areas to which direct funding will be allocated:
- Contraceptive services and supplies
- Sex and relationships education
- Family planning advice
An 'absent' human being (i.e. an avoided birth) cannot produce CO2 - nor can the 'non-existent decendants, in perpetuity. The simplicity of this logic takes away all guesswork - but clearly more work needs to be carried out on quantifying this methodology of CO 2 reductions.
The escalation of CO2, like most other environmental impacts, can be directly linked to the following key factors - the growth of the industrial society, consumerism and the growth of population. This is the classic "I=PAT" function (Impact = Population x Affluence (consumption) x Technology). This triple whammy, exacerbated by the pursuit of economic growth almost at any cost, is causing increasingly rapid and large scale climatic and environmental change.
The logic is simple - a population no longer growing and making better use of the Earth's resources through "greener" technologies and lifestyles, on a more equitable basis, is the only way forward to a healthy, sustainable planet.
There are three key issues:
Firstly – the calculation of carbon emissions:
We are not attempting to set an exact figure for your carbon emission calculations – not least because it’s practically impossible. To calculate how much CO2 each person emits we would need to know every nuance of their life – what they had for breakfast and how fast they drive in their car – this is clearly impractical for us and for any other carbon offset scheme. Nevertheless a multi-million dollar market exists in carbon offsets and we are simply, and uniquely, raising the issue of the carbon (and environmental) impact of growing populations. We have therefore chosen to use figures provided by the United Nations Development Program www.hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/data/climatechange. which shows each country’s CO2 emission divided by the number of people in that country - the discrepancy being that a country’s CO2 outputs include all industrial and commercial activity – even if the result of that production is not used in that country (e.g. cars made for export). So, until we have more comprehensive data we are using a ‘carbon conscience’ approach – not a scientific approach.
Secondly – the effectiveness of family planning in reducing carbon emssions:
We acknowledge more work needs to be done to develop and refine the initial research in the report Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost but, in simple terms, an ‘absent’ human (i.e. one whose birth has been avoided) cannot produce CO2 (nor can their ‘absent’ descendants). Family planning and education has been shown, through conclusive evidence, to slow down the pace of population growth and contribute towards national development. Conversely all other development programs are doomed to fail, ultimately, if human numbers, rich and poor, keep rising indefinitely.
Finally – the price of carbon offsetting through PopOffsets:
PopOffsets is a fundraising program that recognizes that a huge carbon offset market exists – whether we like it or not – and it’s a market which ignores family planning. We are attempting to focus attention on the clear viability of family planning as a practical and cost-effective carbon reduction strategy. This approach avoids the so-called high tech solutions which, in themselves, have the potential to exacerbate other environmental problems.
We are not attempting to quantify CO2 savings through family planning – we acknowledge that more work needs to be done in this area.
We have used a figure of carbon offset priced at £10 per tonne (approximately $15 or €12) which we feel is, potentially, realistic.
The project will grow as people, organizations and politicians begin to recognize that tackling population growth is the key way of addressing CO2 reduction and environmental degradation.
Few would argue with the statement that ‘population cannot continue to increase indefinitely’. But how do we define the limit? Using a tool called Ecological Footprinting*, which provides a snapshot of human ecological impact under given circumstances, it is possible to throw some light on this question
What is a sustainable population for Earth? – less than now!
According to the new (and still imprecise) science of footprinting, our planet’s environmental footprint is now, already, over 25% greater than its total biological resources can sustainably supply.
Assuming the global biocapacity and average footprint [F1] remain stable at the 2003 level, then, to become sustainable, the world population needs to contract to a maximum of 5.1 billion. In other words, humanity is already overshooting the total for whom the earth can continue to provide, long term.
For a ‘modest’ world footprint of 3.3 global hectares per capita (an increase in the average footprint, which of course is essential if the poorest countries are to develop, and without allowances for biodiversity or change of biocapacity), the sustainable population is 3.4 billion
For a ‘modest’ world footprint of 3.3 gha/cap, plus a 12% allowance for biodiversity (but none for attrition of biocapacity), the sustainable population is 3.0 billion.
For a ‘modest’ world footprint of 3.3 gha/cap, plus a 20% margin for biodiversity and attrition of biocapacity then the sustainable population is 2.7 billion
A funding committee is responsible for assessing each application and approving funding to projects. Many family planning organizations around the world already provide contraceptives. Helping them improve distribution to ensure greater uptake is one example of how funding can be used. Funding case studies appear on the website.
We use all donated funds less minimal/unavoidable costs for directly supporting family planning and wider reproductive health programs, and sex and relationships education to help to meet, in particualr, the needs of over 200 million women worldwide who do not have access to family planning.
We also recognize the power of social media and effective campaigning to change attitudes and values. We intend to develop a program of action to promote the case for optimum population as the best means of ensuring a peaceful, equitable future for mankind and a thriving and diverse natural environment. This means bringing about cultural, attitudinal and behavioural change by promoting the advantages of greater equity, security and access to resources for future generations through supporting an optimum population.
If you have a project for which you would like us to consider funding please go to our Contact Us page
Most companies have no legal obligation to offset their CO2 outputs and do not need to use accredited carbon offsets (there is no such thing as an ‘accredited’ scheme). Schemes which provide accredited carbon offsets operate within a regulated compliance market under, for example, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
Many companies choose to offset their carbon emissions in order to meet their corporate social responsibility. We recognize that convincing organizations to use the PopOffsets carbon offsets requires them to be objective, matter-of-fact, visionary and innovative - not least because of the many taboos around the issue. Conventionally, the whole business world is based upon the principle of growth through greater and greater sales (to more and more people). We believe that the more forward-looking companies, who can look beyond simple economics to the biology – and the beauty - of a finite planet, who look intelligently at the carbon question and acknowledge the environmental and economic risks of rapidly growing and unsustainable population, will choose to support PopOffsets.
We must not expect poor people to remain poor. They have every right to improve their standards of living, and this will result in greater CO2 emissions and pressure on the planet. In addition, activities such as forest clearance and burning (which creates about one fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions) largely result from population pressure. This includes the poorest people who must clear forests for agriculture to feed their families. The UN projects a forty per cent increase in human numbers by 2085: this is something that we can seek to influence. Finally, PopOffsets helps people to avoid unplanned pregnancies in both developed and developing countries.
No. We agree that the priority remains for rich individuals and countries to massively reduce their own emissions. However, the poor rightly aspire to improve their living standards. All population growth increases total emissions and will do so increasingly as developing countries industrialise.