Plus cas change…

The World’s largest bank is J P Morgan. It makes on average around US$460 million every week. On the fifth anniversary of the collapse of another large bank, Lehman Brothers, regulators announced that J P Morgan had been fined $920 million for violating US laws about security trading and for attempting to cover up those criminal actions. In essence they pretended portfolios were worth more than they were worth to cover up massive losses they had incurred. Continue reading

Tony, Can you Spare a Dime?

Banking scandals continue. The banks are so powerful and multinational that governments are rather scared to get to grips with scandals for fear of wrecking what is an important part of the economy. In the last few months we have seen a number of scandals or potential scandals. Continue reading

Why I do not buy carbon offsets

I do not buy carbon offsets.

The carbon offset is now big business. Plenty of people are being offered carbon offsets when they book air travel. In a moment of environmental concern many people do sign up. I do not recommend that you do buy a carbon offset . These are my reasons.

  1. We do not really understand how to offset carbon dioxide. You can plant a tree, but it has to be the right tree in the right place, otherwise you may well release as much carbon as you will save by ploughing up the land.
  2. Carbon emissions that you create stay in the atmosphere for one hundred years. What guarantee is there that the projects your carbon offsets invests in will remain for a hundred years? What happens if, for example, that the trees planted are cropped for biomass? Back goes the carbon!
  3. Third world renewable energy projects do not offset carbon. You can invest in a new third world renewable energy project, but that assumes that the third world project would have gone ahead with a fossil fuel alternative, had it not been for your investment, which is not the case.
  4. There are no proper regulations governing the institutions that sell carbon offsets. You could well be buying nothing at all.
  5. The range of prices of so called carbon offsets varies so much and this in itself must cause suspicion.
  6. There is no transparency in the carbon offset business. How much profit do the banks, airlines and carbon offset companies make from your money which you expect to be applied towards doing environmental good? How much is left in the till after all the commissions profits and the rest have been removed?

So, in essence, if you buy a carbon offset you will buy something that may not offset carbon, where there is no regulatory control and where there is no transparency. If carbon offsets were offered for sale by the more dubious type of direct selling businesses, no one would buy them. The fact that they are offered by reputable institutions makes them appear respectable, but I do not think they are.

JP Morgan (Mr Tony Blair’s current employer has recently purchased Climate Care, a business that deals in carbon credits. What environmental credentials does JP Morgan and Mr Blair have? Climate Care state, on their website, that “the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has set rigorous standards for project validation and verification and credible project standards for voluntary emissions reductions have been launched.”

The CDM’s standards do not actually work in the way climate care claim. They finance projects that may have taken place in any event, even without the carbon credits that the CDM brings. In addition the CDM standards do not take into account the complete environmental and ecological effect of the projects from which the credits are derived. The CDM’s standards are not a benchmark of projects that provide genuine carbon emission reductions.

The carbon offset industry is big business. It is based on a fallacy that it reduces emissions. I do not think that it does. What it does is to provide charitable help for many worthy projects.

I do not recommend that you buy carbon offsets. It is far more effective to think about reducing your emissions in the developed world, rather than offsetting emissions in the developing and undeveloped world which run at a fraction of those in the developed world.

Charity is a very good thing but it should not be confused with offsetting carbon dioxide emissions. That is why I do not buy carbon offsets.