carbon offsets Posts

A Grassroots Alternative to Carbon Offsets

Originally posted at HuffingtonPost by our co-founder, Dennis Whittle

When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it looks like the carbon-intensive industries are likely to face either a tax on carbon or a market for buying and selling emissions allowances in coming years. But it is not just power plants and large manufacturing facilities that contribute to climate change. All of us are accountable for some level of emissions–begging the question, how can you account for what your organization produces?

A popular answer is carbon offsets–essentially funding a reduction in emissions or increase in carbon storage somewhere so that you can continue emitting carbon here. Although offsets have been widely embraced, the actual amount of carbon kept from entering the atmosphere is often questioned. OK, it will help plant trees. But where? By whom? And will they live the 20+ years necessary to accomplish their offsetting purpose?

An alternative for skeptics is to fund projects that have received the climate-friendly “Green Leaf” designation on our online philanthropic marketplace, GlobalGiving. Our site features smaller environmental and social projects from around the world, letting you find opportunities you would not otherwise discover. Project leaders post detailed project descriptions so donors can see exactly what they’re funding. And donors on GlobalGiving can see directly the difference their donations are making through updates from the field.

Instead of quantifying offsets, we are encouraging individuals and organizations to take responsibility for their own emissions by helping these projects expand their reach. And, we are able to promote a much broader range of projects that address climate change. For instance, a project in Ecuador teaches tens of thousands of children about climate change and ways to combat it. We can’t translate this into tons of carbon, but it can result in a future generation of green voters, consumers, and policymakers. Other projects from the Environmental Foundation for Africa are working not only to provide solar electricity to schools in villages in Sierra Leone, but also to train technical school students in their installation and maintenance.

Encouraging the Third World to keep walking the same well-trodden carbon intensive path is ultimately unsustainable. As David Wheeler and Kevin Ummel of the Center for Global Development report, if nothing changes in the global South their cumulative contribution to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will exceed that of the North within the coming decades. That means that even if developed countries cut their carbon emissions to zero, developing countries will face the same future–rising temperatures, more droughts and flooding, more frequent and intense storms, changing weather patterns.

And there’s no better time to donate to GlobalGiving Green projects than now – the Give a Little Green campaign is matching donations to these projects by 50% through April 28th or until matching funds are exhausted.
Thanks to Bill Brower for the research supporting this post.

It’s Not Easy Being Green (Or offsetting carbon emissions)

Our fearless leader (Dennis, not Dixon) often talks about how energized he feels after trips to California.  The GlobalGiving team makes it out to the left coast fairly often due to many funding and partner relationships, and this week it was my turn to spend a few days in the Bay area.

Maybe it’s all this mid-February California sunshine getting to my head (such a welcome break from the icy east coast!), but I’ve found myself agreeing with Dennis on the California vibe-full of energy, optimism, inspiration, and a sense of what’s possible.

I’m here in San Francisco attending the Carbon Forum America conference-one of the largest gatherings in North America related to climate change and carbon markets.  You don’t have to be Al Gore to know that climate change is one of the largest and most serious problems facing society today, and without a similarly large and serious response to turn this ship around we could find ourselves in a heap of trouble.

But when faced with such a daunting threat looming over our shoulders, how can any one of us know what to do, or if any actions we could take will have an effect on such a huge problem?  Can CFL light bulbs, driving a Prius, purchasing carbon offsets, or calling Congress actually dig us out of this global warming hole we find ourselves in?

I stayed with a good friend in Berkeley on Sunday night before the conference and I asked him about what it was like living there.  “It makes it easy – to ride my bike, buy local food, carpool to work, or use alternative energy sources – because these things are available and supported by the community.”

And while GlobalGiving isn’t exactly available at your local farmer’s market, I connected his point to the work we’re doing with supporting international projects.  By making solutions available, and easy to find and support, it can drive people to take action that they might not otherwise feel empowered or inspired to take.

Although the prospect of climate change is scary, a speaker today pointed out that one benefit of needing to address climate change is the power to force new levels of cooperation between people across national or international boundaries.  And finding these collective solutions will drive new levels of business creativity, entrepreneurship, problem solving, and empathy.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers about the climate change monkey on our back, but I am excited that-like health care, education, technology, and women’s rights – it is a global issue that uniquely impacts developing countries, and GlobalGiving is hoping to provide donors with even more impactful ways of addressing climate change in the coming months.  By providing climate change solutions that our community can support, we just might uncover some powerful new strategies for change.

Stay tuned…