[this is my contribution for Blog Action Day 2009]
When we adress the problem of climate change, one method that usually gets mentioned, is ”carbon offset”. The basic thinking is that you compensate for your action results of CO2 emission by buying different kinds of compensating efforts – to go ”carbon neutral”. There is a strong difference in offset methods, though, and this needs to be prominently addresses. In one end it could just maintain ”business as usual”, investing in methods such as planting trees to absorb CO2 or take the greenhouse gases into the mountains. This does not affect the original source of the emissions – it is ”end of pipe” solutions. What we need is to focus ”beginning of pipe” innovations – and if the offset program focuses on the necessary technology shift towards sustainable distributed energy and mobility scaling, then it is of the better. In fact, then it becomes a main driver and (investment) forces to support this shift, in demand of disruptive sustainability innovation.
I would specifically like to adress three areas for these kinds of solution-oriented, long term-focused investment – solar energy for developing countries, aeroplanes and cars.
Developing countries - solar energy
Shifting kerosene and charcoal as energy sources in developing economies, and increasing access to electricity is crucial for development. Modern applications of renewable energy sources emerging from “clean tech” can literally (em)power the people! Extending the homework hours for the kids and some extra job hours at home can be made possible through Solar Home Systems, at the same time as the health damaging effects from kerosene lamps are gone. Micro hydro is also an efficient small-scale solution as opposed to the big water dams. Power at family and community level means power to the people, community up, not top down.
Solar energy and other forms of sustainable distributed small-scale infrastructure organized energy forms are financed through E+Co. There you can directly calculate how much an investment in small-scale renewable energy solutions providers mean in CO2 displacement, oil barrels and numbers of people helped to get a solar home system. Here, in this context, Grameen Shakti is worth mentioning, using micro finance as a model to provide villagers with renewable energy. Grameen Shakti have won the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’: The Right Livelihood Award.
One of the strongest emission sources is aeroplanes. There is no tendencies that we decrease our travel through flights, with the latest Airbus now swallowing beyond 600 persons and additional tracks are added to airports. What we need is a shift of the means of driving these planes, an area that Virgin Green Fund and Sir Richard Branson has addressed in the billion dollar investment portfolio.
The technology holding the promise in relative short term to provide a technology shift of cars is the “plug in hybrid”, where you use both electricity with recharging aside fuels such as ethanol, and further along the road maybe a hundred percent electrical car, such as the one developed by Tesla Motors – the Tesla Roadster.
Go Sustainable in Carbon Offset – choose the right program
Looking for carbon offset providers that focus renewable energy and energy efficiency improvement method development is far more sustainable, and generates a change engine empowering the so much needed shift towards a sustainable emission vision of getting to 350 parts per million of CO2 concentration in the biosphere (visit 350.org campaign site for more info). And we're in a hurry. Act fast - the clock is ticking. Let the Tesla Roadster be symbolic of the speed needed for the urgent technology shift and implementing the solution. You can make a change - with both your purchasing and investing power!
Note: A guide with evaluation of different carbon offset vendors have been published by David Suzuki foundation. David Suzuki recieved this year's Right Livelihood Award.
Note 2: Some other campaigns worth noting:
- Hopenhagen - get yourself on the map before the Copenhagen December meeting!
- Seal the Deal 2009 - sign the petition!
- Tcktcktck - The World is Ready - sign the pledge!