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Friday, 05 October 2007

Considering Carbon Offsets: an Interview with Anja Kollmuss - Page 2

Written by Elizabeth Gartley
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With an increasing awareness of environmental consciousness and concern over carbon emissions, more travelers are looking to the growing trend of buying carbon offsets as one way to become carbon neutral when they fly.  Buying carbon offsets basically means paying someone else to reduce carbon emissions in your stead, so in theory, canceling out your own emissions.

INTRAVEL:  How should fliers consider the price of carbon offsets?


AK:  Unfortunately, it’s not very clear.  It’s not necessarily that more expensive offsets are better or more likely to be additional – I’ve seen very expensive projects with poor quality offsets.  But that being said, very cheap offsets aren’t necessarily the best either.  You have to consider, what are the projects? And are they additional?


It’s really hard for the average consumer, and there’s not an easy solution.  If you’re not an expert, it can be hard to understand and difficult to figure out.  It may be better to make a contribution to an organization that you know and trust.  If you must fly, you may even consider investing in a more efficient refrigerator or washer, or again, making a contribution to a company that’s countering carbon emissions that you know and trust.


INTRAVEL:  So where carbon offset companies are not regulated, it may be better to invest your money in other carbon-conscious projects?


AK:  If you’re someone who travels a lot its worth looking at what good companies are out there that you can develop a relationship with.  There are some good companies out there that allow for very specific project choices.


INTRAVEL:  As you were surveying these companies and writing this report, did you find anything surprising?


AK:  I really didn’t know much when I went into it, so basically I just learned a lot.  But what did surprise me was the reaction the report got.


INTRAVEL: In what sense?


AK:  Well, a lot of reaction, a lot of phone calls.  There was a lot of interest.  And the companies that weren’t rated so high – they weren’t so nice.


©Elizabeth Gartley



The following is excerpted from the Tufts TCI Website:


Recommendations from the Study:

1. Recommended (atmosfair, climate friendly, myclimate, NativeEnergy)

2. Recommended with Reservation (,, The CarbonNeutral Company, Climate Care, Offsetters, TerraPass)

3. Currently Not Recommended (Better World Club, Cleanairpass, Solar Electric Light Fund)

For a table that quickly goes over the results click here:

For in depth results and a description of what each company does click here:


Top Results from the Study:

atmosfair is a German offset non-profit company focusing on offsetting air travel. atmosfair was initiated in 2003 as a joint project of forum anders reisen, a consortium of travel agencies, the NGO Germanwatch and the for-profit carbon trading company 500 PPM GmbH (1).

atmosfair has an excellent air travel emissions calculator and detailed information on the underlying assumptions.

atmosfair has excellent on-line documentation of its projects. All of its projects have to meet the Gold Standard. atmosfair’s project portfolio includes four renewable energy and energy efficiency projects planned and/or implemented in India, Thailand, Brazil and South Africa. atmosfair does not invest in domestic projects or sequestrations projects. All projects are third party verified by TÜV. All verification reports can be downloaded directly from the website.

The projects in India (large scale solar cookers) and the project in Thailand (sewage treatment plant at palm oil factory to reduce methane emissions) are currently in the operations phase. The projects in Brazil and South Africa are still in the planning stage and it is unclear when and if they will be realized. atmosfair is unusually honest in its project descriptions, as the following example of the project in Brazil shows:

“At present the validation of the project according to the GoldStandard is unsure. The partner for this project, the local NGO South-SouthNorth, announced in November 2005 to get the approval for the Gold Standard. But the ongoing delays casts doubt of that plan. The newly patented technology is still tested, thus the local impacts on the environment cannot be determined finally. Taking into account previous delays atmosfair only sees a limited chance of success for this project. No funds have been paid for the project so far since atmosfair retains the right to only pay for the contracted volume of emission reductions when the project fulfills the Gold Standard.” (, last accessed: 11/21/2006)

atmosfair is one of the more expensive companies we evaluated. They charge $17.30 per ton of CO2 offset. The high prices might be due to the fact that all their projects are implemented within the Kyoto Mechanisms.

Despite the high cost, we give this company a high rating for its excellent documentation, good projects and strict verification procedures.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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