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Friday, 05 October 2007

Considering Carbon Offsets: an Interview with Anja Kollmuss - Page 3

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.

climate friendly

climate friendly is a for-profit company that offers offsets to individuals and businesses. This Australian organization was founded in 2004. climate friendly has an excellent air travel emissions calculator. climate friendly charges $14.50 per ton of CO2 offset. climate friendly’s project portfolio consists of two wind power projects. Both sites were built after 2001:

• The 52.5MW Challicum Hills wind farm in Victoria was completed in 2003.
• The 90.75 MW Te Apiti wind farm is located on the north island of New Zealand. The carbon credits generated from Te Apiti are Kyoto Compliant Joint Implementation (JI) Voluntary Emissions Reduction (VERs).

Although climate friendly currently has only wind power in their portfolio they are seeking new renewable energy projects including wind, solar electric (PV), solar thermal, micro hydro (low-impact), geothermal, ecologically sound biomass and biogas. They do not fund bio-sequestration, geo-sequestration, or landfill gas projects. All projects are accredited through two standards: The Gold Standard and Green Power accreditation.

Although climate friendly is currently a small company, their high standards, transparency and excellent carbon calculator make them a good choice for offsetting air travel emissions.


Swiss site:,
US site:

myclimate - The Climate Protection Partnership was started in 2002 as an international non-profit venture at the Eidgenoessischen Technischen Hochschule (ETH) in Switzerland. It sells offsets to businesses, organizations and individuals. To sell carbon offsets in the US myclimate has partnered with Sustainable Travel International, a non-profit organization that specializes in ecotourism and sustainable travel programs.

The air travel emissions calculator on the Swiss site is very good. The calculator on the US site is acceptable but emissions are likely underestimated.

myclimate offers CDM projects and VER projects in its portfolio and does not support sequestration projects. For individual customers, myclimate offers two different project portfolios:

Portfolio Sustainability
This portfolio consists of small-scale and micro-scale projects. All projects have clear additional sustainability benefits. Favorably, these projects are situated in economically disadvantaged areas. For example in Ladakh, a remote area in the Indian Himalaya, that faces very harsh conditions due to the high altitude. In building 500 passive solar greenhouses and 20 micro hydropower systems, myclimate helps the local rural population to generate income activities in order to improve their conditions of living.

Portfolio Balance
This portfolio includes cost effective and attractive certificates. It consists of small-scale projects, which generate VERs/ CERs. (pdf, myclimate Carbon Offsetting Services, General Information
Zurich, 01.02.2006)

The offsets from myclimate are quite expensive at $18.00 (US site) $27.40 (CH site). Although it is not made explicit on the websites, the US site quotes offsets for “Portfolio Balance”, the Swiss site quotes offsets for “Portfolio Sustainability".

myclimate carbon offset projects are certified by independent organizations. Depending on the project size and type, validation may take place either through CDM accredited certification institutes such as the SGS, TÜV and DNV or by a board of experts from Swiss universities.

All myclimate projects, CDM and VER, have to adhere to the Gold Standard. The project descriptions on the website are very good. They all indicate how much the project is expected to offset and if it is a CDM or VER project. Unfortunately, project description information is hard to find on the US site.

Despite the high price of their offsets, myclimate’s high project standards, its transparency and good calculator makes it an excellent choice for offsetting air travel emissions.


NativeEnergy is a privately held Native American energy for-profit company founded in 2000. NativeEnergy helps build Native American, farmer-owned, and charitable purpose renewable energy projects.

NativeEnergy has a very good air travel emissions calculator that uses a factor of two to account for full radiative forcing. NativeEnergy charges $12 per ton of CO2 offset.

NativeEnergy develops renewable energy projects on Native American lands and farmer-owned wind, solar, and methane projects throughout the country. NativeEnergy offers offsets to individuals and businesses. Their programs include household energy consumption (CoolHome), driving (Cool Driver), Climate Neutral Travel, climate neutral events and conferences, a CoolBusiness program, and general consulting services.

NativeEnergy has a very extensive website that gives answers to many of the technical questions: e.g. what is additionality or what is the difference between a REC and a carbon offset. They also have short project descriptions of eight of their already implemented projects and 4 currently planned projects (see, last accessed 12/14/06.)

NativeEnergy clearly distinguishes between RECs, carbon credits and future credits and explains the issue of additionality to their customers:

[…] The fact is, however, that with almost all renewable energy projects, that certainty comes with the virtual certainty that each and every one of your RECs or offsets would have been generated regardless of your (or anyone else’s) purchase.

Most renewable energy projects have high installation costs and little or no operating/fuel costs. As a result, once they’re built there’s little chance that running will be more expensive than not running. Most of their return on investment, by far, comes from the revenues and tax benefits from generating and selling their underlying “generic” power. RECs sales bring them additional revenues, which may have been counted on when the investment decision was made, but typically do not cause them to be “turned on” when they would otherwise be “turned off.” Notable exceptions include a limited number of existing biomass, small hydro, fuel switching and similar projects that have high operating costs and require additional revenues to operate. (last accessed 12/14/06)

They state the additionality benefits of their futures (which they call “help build Recs”) but also the risks associated with buying credits that will be created in the future and therefore need to be estimated.

On the other hand, it is not clear how they choose their projects or how the carbon offsets are verified. They do not list a third party verification process or company.

NativeEnergy’s strict distinction between type and quality of offset is laudable. We would like to see more transparency in terms of financing and project verification.

We recommend NativeEnergy as a provider of voluntary carbon offsets.



(Page 3 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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