Everything you need to know about carbon offsetting
By Lucie Agass Wednesday 17 June 2020
So, let’s chat about carbon offsetting. It all begins with your carbon footprint…
Every person, organisation and country has a carbon footprint. A carbon footprint measures our impact on carbon emissions – which are causing the climate crisis. It’s rather mind boggling, but your carbon footprint includes almost everything. From the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to the energy we use, and the holidays we take...
That’s why cutting our collective carbon emissions is so important in fighting the climate crisis. Chances are, you’ve already taken steps to reduce your own carbon footprint. Which is great! But if you feel you’ve done all you can, carbon offsetting is one way you can take responsibility for the carbon emissions that are left.
But what is carbon offsetting?
It starts with buying ‘carbon offsets’. For every carbon offset bought, one tonne of carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere – or it’s stopped from ever even entering the atmosphere.
If you buy enough offsets, you can balance out the emissions of your carbon footprint. Then you become ‘carbon neutral’.
It all works because – by buying these carbon offsets – you’re funding amazing projects that are slowing down climate change.
Some great carbon offset projects are:
Tree planting and peatland restoration
Clean energy technologies, like solar panels that replace fossil fuels
The first of these takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. And the second stops future emissions from entering the atmosphere in the first place.
Lots of these projects also help the environment in other ways, by doing things like promoting biodiversity. Others help local communities by creating new jobs and educating people. At the moment, because of international rules, carbon offset projects are mostly found in the developing world.
Here’s why we offer carbon offsetting at OVO
Our mission is all about working towards zero carbon living. And we do this in lots of different ways.
One of our most important goals is to make low-carbon heating systems much more popular. So, we’re kicking off pioneering projects that will help make this happen – like our trial of new low-carbon heating solutions.
But, the reality is, the switch to low carbon energy can’t happen overnight.
Right now, 85% of homes in the UK burn natural gas (a fossil fuel), which is mainly used for their central heating. This releases carbon emissions. And, unfortunately, gas will carry on playing a role in heating homes in the short term – until low carbon heating becomes the norm.
That’s part of the reason why we’re also helping our members fight energy waste at home, to cut their carbon emissions. And we’ve created OVO Beyond to do this!
When you upgrade to OVO Beyond, you’ll get personalised tips – tailored to you and your home – that will help you save energy and cut carbon. Because using less energy is one of the best things we can do to help the planet.
As part of OVO Beyond, you’ll also get 100% renewable electricity and 100% carbon-neutral gas1. This is where the carbon offsetting comes in, because our carbon neutral gas is made up of 15% green gas (biomethane) and 85% carbon-neutral gas – which has been offset.
In an ideal world, we’d provide 100% biomethane. But, sadly, it’s really expensive, costing more than most folks are willing to pay! Which is why the ‘green’ gas that most energy suppliers tend to offer is a mix of green biomethane and natural gas that's been offset.
So, until we can end our reliance on gas – with the help of new tech, the switch to low carbon heating and by fighting energy waste – carbon-offsetting is our second best solution, for the time being.
Amazing projects we can fund with carbon offsetting
The carbon offsets we buy help fund the wonderful UN-led Katingan Peatland Restoration and Conservation Project in Indonesia. The project protects and restores 149,800 hectares of carbon-absorbing peatland ecosystems. It also offers a home for wildlife (like the Bornean orangutan) and jobs for local people.
The project contributes to a number of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – like Climate Action, Good Health and Wellbeing, and Life on Land.
It’s really important to us that we only support credible and certified carbon offset projects – with internationally-recognised standards. The strict rules help make sure they deliver the carbon-savings they’ve promised.
Does carbon offsetting help the environment?
Carbon offsetting isn’t perfect. And it should never be the first choice for climate action. It’s always better not to create those harmful emissions in the first place.
That’s why, at OVO, our main goal is to keep supporting tech that will decarbonise heat in the long run. We’ll also carry on fighting energy waste, to help lower the carbon footprint of the energy we supply, as much as we can. And then, for members who want to go that extra mile, we give them the option to offset their remaining emissions.
On its own, carbon offsetting isn’t going to end the climate crisis. But it’s one part of the solution – while we make our dream of a net zero energy system a reality. Plus, it does pay for some amazing projects that are fighting climate change.
1- By providing 100% renewable electricity and 100% carbon-neutral gas (15% green gas and 85% offset) and offsetting all associated lifecycle carbon emissions involved in the production and consumption of your energy, OVO Beyond reduces your yearly carbon emissions from the energy used in your home to net zero. We buy our renewable electricity via renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)).
See here [https://www.ovoenergy.com/blog/green/what-are-regos-who-needs-them-and-why.html] for details on Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates and how these work. We buy our green gas via renewable certificates (Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin (RGGOs)).
See here [https://www.ovoenergy.com/guides/energy-guides/rggos-explained.html] for details on Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin and how these work. We offset the remaining emissions by supporting UN-led REDD+ [https://www.un-redd.org/] carbon reduction projects that are certified to the Verified Carbon Standard [https://verra.org/project/vcs-program/].