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
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.
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'.
Offsetting is not a valid alternative to reducing one’s carbon emissions, which should always be the priority. Offsetting sits alongside reducing one’s emissions as a contribution to limiting climate change. Slowing population growth is only one of a number of things that we must do. Others include improving resource and energy efficiency, and reducing waste, inequality and personal consumption.
We absolutely do need to reduce per capita consumption in wealthier communities. Slowing population growth is not an alternative to this: they sit alongside each other. Encouraging wealthier communities to reduce their per capita consumption and have smaller families is important. At the same time, we can help currently poor communities, whose living standards should rise over time, to avoid unplanned pregnancies and thus future problems of sustainability.
No. We believe that inequality should be reduced, poverty alleviated and developing nations supported in their development. However, many developing nations are held back by high population growth and 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 certainly do not have the right to control other people's lives. We seek only to provide education and family planning services so people can 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 results in so many unintended pregnancies.
It is the case that some poorer people and communities desire large families. However, as population numbers rise and the availability of fertile land and potable water falls, this is becoming less and less the case. Instead, increasingly people would rather have fewer children whom they can afford to educate and care for properly.
The PopOffsets project does not direct funding towards abortion services. Good contraception reduces the number of abortions. We would like to make abortion history!
PopOffsets helps women to reconcile conflicts between their personal wishes on family size and cultural and social pressures to have more children. We direct funding towards:
* 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 non-existent descendants, in perpetuity. The simplicity of this logic takes away all guesswork. More work is needed on quantifying emission reductions, as per capita emissions vary widely across communities and change over time.
The increase in Greenhouse Gases, like most other environmental impacts, is directly linked to the growth of the industrial society, consumerism and population. This is the classic "I=PAT" function (Impact = Population x Affluence (consumption) x Technology). This triple whammy, exacerbated by the unbridled pursuit of economic growth, is causing increasingly rapid, global climate and environmental change.
The logic is simple: a human 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 path to a healthy, sustainable planet.
There are three key issues:
Firstly – the calculation of carbon emissions:
There are two approaches to this: either calculate your own footprint or the footprint of a particular activity or product, or use a published per capita value for your country or community. Our main objective is to make you aware of your footprint and how you can reduce and offset it.
If you want to calculate your own, there are many Carbon Calculators on the web. Two we can recommend are the UK government’s or the excellent Eden Project’s calculator, which allows you to put carbon values on holidays, meals out, car purchases and other individual activities.
If you prefer a per capita value, the UNDP publishes country statistics but these are somewhat dated and emission levels are changing constantly: some up, some down. There are other sources such as Carbon Footprint of Nations, which includes trade-weighted data. Or you can simply use an approximate figure: e.g. 10 tonnes per capita for the UK and northern EU, and 20 tonnes for the USA, Canada and Australia.
Secondly – the effectiveness of family planning in reducing carbon emissions:
In simple terms, an ‘absent’ human (i.e. one whose birth has been avoided) cannot produce emissions, nor can their ‘absent’ descendants. Family planning and education has been shown conclusively to slow population growth and contribute towards national development, with no environmental downside. 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 –which ignores family planning. We focus attention on family planning as a practical and cost-effective carbon reduction strategy. This approach avoids technology-based solutions which, in themselves, have the potential to exacerbate other environmental problems.
We don’t quantify CO2 savings through family planning at present, and acknowledge that more work needs to be done in this area. We use a figure of carbon offset priced at £10 per tonne (approximately $15 or €12) which we feel is realistic.
The project will grow as people, organizations and politicians recognize increasingly that tackling population growth is key to addressing CO2 reduction and environmental degradation. Few would argue with the statement that ‘population cannot continue to increase indefinitely’.
What is a sustainable population for Earth – a lot less than it is now!
According to the new (and still imprecise) science of footprinting, our planet’s environmental footprint is already about 30% greater than its total resources can sustainably supply. The global per capita eco-footprint is about 2.7 hectares while there are only 2.1 global hectares of productive land and water per capita on Earth
Assuming the global biocapacity and average footprint remain stable, the world population needs to contract to about 5.5 billion. In other words, humanity is already overshooting the total for whom the earth can continue to provide, long term.
There is much that developed countries can do: reduce overconsumption and waste of energy and resources, change their diets to eat less meat, introduce “greener” technologies… In parallel however, developing countries’ footprints will increase as their economies grow.
For a ‘modest’ world footprint of 3.3 global hectares per capita (an increase in the average footprint, which of course is essential if poor countries are to develop) the sustainable population is 3.6 billion, and if we allow a 20% margin for biodiversity and loss of biocapacity then the sustainable population is 3 billion!
A funding committee assesses each application and approves project funding. Many family planning organizations around the world already provide contraceptives. Helping to improve distribution and encourage use is one example of how your money can be spent. Several case studies appear on the website.
We use all donated funds, less minimal/unavoidable costs, to directly support family planning and wider reproductive health and education programmes, to help to meet, in particular, the needs of over 225 million women worldwide who do not have access to family planning.
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 or Clean Development Mechanism.
Many companies choose to offset their carbon emissions to meet their corporate social responsibility. We recognize that convincing organizations to use PopOffsets carbon offsets requires them to be objective, visionary and innovative - not least because of the many taboos around the issue. Conventionally, the business world is based upon the principle of growth through greater and greater sales to more and more people. We believe that more forward-looking companies, who can look beyond simple economics to the biology – and the beauty – of a finite Earth, 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 Greenhouse Gas emissions and pressure on the planet. In addition, deforestation (which creates about one fifth of all GHG 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 influence.
Importantly, PopOffsets helps people to avoid unplanned pregnancies in both developed and developing countries.
No. The priority remains for rich individuals and countries to massively reduce their emissions. However, the poor rightly aspire to improve their living standards. All population growth increases total emissions, especially as developing countries industrialise.
Family Planning in developing countries will help them increase their standard of living: the lack of it is likely to leave them in poverty. There are more people living in poverty now than the total number on earth 60 years ago. We want children everywhere to grow up healthy, happy with enough to eat, and decent education and life chances – not starving and illiterate as so many are now.