Issuing carbon credits is missing the real point

As our society straddles this elephantine consumerist wrecking ball swinging wildly toward the fragile environment, it’s hard to imagine a cushion of carbon credits will do much to deflect the destruction.

Carbon credits, for me, have long been a source of supreme consternation and bafflement.

As a self-professed eco-preneur running a sustainable, low-impact business, the intangibility that forms the method for creating carbon credits has always sat slightly askew to my comprehensive abilities.

It’s been a hard nut to crack, and, frankly, I’m not finding much in the way of resolution.

The entire process — staged in a perplexing arena where idealism stands pitted against reality — appears to be an apologetic compromise, an admission of defeat by environmentalists for the price of a paltry, polluted payoff.

There is neither pride, nor victory, nor absolution in these treacly transactions. For me, there are only more questions, and the need for the utmost transparency.

As far as I can tell, the premise behind carbon credits is to redirect spending from expensive carbon-cutting measures within your own organization to more cost-effective ones that someone else is doing.

For example the cost would be deemed prohibitive to replace a coal-fired power plant with solar panels, yet paying a guy to plant trees can be relatively inexpensive.

The low price affixed to carbon credits makes buying your way to carbon neutrality much more enticing to your bottom-line than changing your own operations to reduce impact.

And changing one’s own operations to achieve carbon neutrality is, to me, the real point.

Make no mistake; the brain trust that is Cowichan Energy Alternatives and its creation of the Community Carbon Marketplace is a conception of brilliance.

As a vehicle to redirect tax dollars slated to flow from governments out into the unknown, the diversion back into the hands of local, accessible organizations will undoubtedly make the trading system a success.

The City of Duncan’s $1,400 originally headed to B.C.’s questionable Pacific Carbon Trust will make a difference if it is used to spearhead local carbon sequestering projects.

If, however, it is used as a substitute to improving an organization’s own carbon output, or simply to fund existing projects or businesses who have had their carbon footprint assessment done and have come out with carbon credits in their pockets, the system will have missed the point.

In 2007 my partner and I created a business with the explicit intent to not add carbon emissions to the atmosphere through the delivery of our service.

Regardless of whether a system exists to trade carbon credits or not, our business fills a need in the local economy and is profitable.

When our carbon footprint assessment was completed we came out with credits, compared to if we had started the same business with a fossil-fuel burning vehicle instead of our bicycles.

To us, that comparison is moot, as there was never any intent to use a polluting mode of transportation.

If a business has true intentions to become carbon neutral, it will alter its existing business operations to reflect this — it will refocus its energies to achieving this goal and it will achieve it.

If a business wants to give the outward appearance that it cares about becoming carbon neutral, or wants to support carbon sequestration for its neighbours, it can buy carbon credits..

Aaron Bichard writes for newspapers and recycles them. Connect with him at cowichanrecyclists@gmail.com.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.