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ResponsibleTravel.com Scuttles Carbon Offsetting Option

rtOne of the first travel agencies to give fliers the option to offset the carbon emissions of their flights has ceased offering the program, calling it a “medieval pardon.”

Responsibletravel.com, a UK travel agency, had been offering the offsetting option since 2002. Now it believes the best way to address global emissions is to focus on reducing emissions in the travel industry, instead of offsetting them, reports Irish Times.

“Carbon offsets distract tourists from the need to reduce their emissions. They create a ‘medieval pardon’ for us to carry on behaving in the same way or worse,” said the firm’s managing director, Justin Francis.

The unregulated nature of the carbon offset industry also played a role in the decision, and a recent report by Friends of the Earth that highlights the pitfalls of carbon offsetting was a considering factor, Francis said.

Not everyone sees the carbon offset market for eco-conscious flyers to be a thing of the past. For instance, recently installed kiosks at San Francisco International Airport allow fliers to offset the carbon footprint of their flights.

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3 thoughts on “ResponsibleTravel.com Scuttles Carbon Offsetting Option

  1. Going to the source of carbon emissions to seek reductions is core to a long term strategy. That said, this shouldn’t be an either/or proposition but rather BOTH. By educating, and engaging the end-user consumer you create a more informed consumer, create additional demand and put pressure on manufacturers/businesses to reduce emissions. Additionally, rather dismissing the unregulated carbon offset market, organizations like responsibletravel.com should add their weight to the discussion to seek solutions regarding how to ensure the carbon offset market is more accountable. This work isn’t easy. It sounds like responsibletravel.com has given up when the going gets difficult by passing the baton to someone else versus indicating an action plan moving forward.

  2. What an absurd and pompous position from a man whose firm profits from putting people on airplanes. Unless Mr. Francis wishes to advocate grounding our airlines fleets, then mitigating emissions is the only responsible way to travel. CO2 is fungible, and reducing it one area (such as forestry protection), when we can’t reduce it in another is the only way we are going to make enough progress in the next decade.

    Eventually we all hope to see much less carbon-intensive air travel, but for now, at least own up to your emissions.

    Our recent sustainable travel industry survey (http://www.climatepath.org/forbusinesses/ecotourism) indicated that most in the industry support offsetting, but are having trouble explaining how it all works to travelers. I guess ResponsibleTravel is just taking the path of least resistance.

  3. We certainly haven’t given up; reducing carbon emission in the travel industry and beyond is an absolute priority. We are however ready to suggest that offsetting might not be working as well as hoped when we supported it in 2002. We were one of the first to offer it to our customers and now we’re one of the first to remove it. We believe offsets distract tourists from the need to reduce their emissions from both a travel perspective as well as where everyday lifestyle habits are concerned. They seem to have become a get out of jail free card for us to carry on behaving in the same way (or worse). Of course tourists will continue to want to visit destinations requiring a flight to get there. It has long been established that if done responsibly, tourism can contribute to livelihoods, local economic development and the conservation of the world’s cultural and natural heritage. It is for this reason that it’s more important than ever that when we do fly, we ensure we make that trip count as much as possible by choosing a holiday that makes a real difference in the destination – one that seeks to reduce CO2 impacts, supports local community programs and community developments.

    Those in favour of offsetting would argue that we should be doing all we can in terms of carbon reduction via lifestyle adjustments as well as offsetting our impacts. For the traveller who has done their utmost to reduce their emissions then we agree that offsets do have a role to play. My concern is that too few people use them in this way.

    The New York Times covered the issue earlier this week and so far has over 100 comments. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/science/earth/18offset.html
    We want people to question and evaluate their own emissions, take responsibility and take action. Our carbon caution provides tips on how to do this.

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