Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘carbon offsets

Search Engine Ecosia Awarded “B Corp” Status

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The following is a Press Release issued by I have been intrigued by the idea of B Corporations and have been looking for ways to invest in them instead of the conventional corporations who are bound by their commitment to increase profits at the cost of everything else. I had not heard of this search engine before – but I did try it and it found me. Google, of course, was supposed to “do no evil” which is not quite the same thing as looking for positive things to do, but many internet companies are trumpeting how they are switching to solar or other renewable power sources – which actually makes financial sense too. Here is the press release. I have no financial interest in Ecosia.

BERLIN – Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees, has been awarded B Corp status, joining the growing movement of B Corporations certified by 2014 Skoll Award recipient B Lab.

A B Corporation is a new type of company, which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Nonprofit organization B Lab is the B Corp certification body.

“Our mission has always been to create a more sustainable world,” Ecosia Founder Christian Kroll said. “In 2009, we promised our users to focus on impact instead of profit – and now there is an entire movement for our philosophy.”

Ecosia lets users help plant trees when they search the web. By donating 80 percent of its ad revenue, the search engine has raised over $1.5 million for rainforest protection since its founding in December 2009. The company’s mission to cultivate a more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable world has it working to plant one million new trees in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest with The Nature Conservancy by August 2014.

“Our users understand strength in numbers because they see its impact everyday,” Kroll said. “Ecosia’s B Corp certification expands that energy to a growing network of smart, accountable businesses who know that social, environmental and economic sustainability is the only true way forward.”

About B Corp
Certified B Corporations meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, legally expand their corporate responsibilities to include consideration of stakeholder interests, and build collective voice through the power of the unifying B Corporation brand. As of April 2014, there are more than 990 Certified B Corporations from over 60 industries and 32 countries, representing a diverse multi-billion dollar marketplace.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 25, 2014 at 8:04 am

The Pacific Carbon Trust audit

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We are supposed to have a carbon neutral government in BC. The BC Liberals introduced legislation to ensure that all the various organizations reporting to it – including schools and hospitals and so on – both took steps to reduce their emissions and where that was not feasible to purchase carbon offsets.

The BC Auditor General has been trying to ensure that his report on this program reached the public before he leaves for Australia and before we head to the polls. Not only was his report issued but he also got a presentation made and put it up on youtube. You can both read the report in full or spend a quarter of an hour listening to a nice lady read a summary. The video is just basic powerpoint type presentation. The main points appear as text on the screen as the voice reads the summary. Auditors are not noted for their exciting presentation skills – but this stuff is indeed dynamite.

The government has been boasting about how well it has done. How safe we are in its hands since the Liberals are so much better at running a businesslike government. Not rash tax and spenders like the NDP – or pie in the sky flakes like the Green Party. This report shows clearly the gap between government spin and reality.

I too have been caught out by false promises of carbon off setters. I wrote about that here. I expected much better of the Climate Change Secretariat, though I am hardly surprised by the results of the audit.

One of the projects was run by a company called Encana. They were flaring gas but now managed to capture it. But it turns out that they would have been doing that anyway, without the PCT financial contribution. And it also just so happens that Encana made $647,670.00 in contributions since 2005 to the BC Liberals. Thanks to Laila Yuile for that info

UPDATE 1 But there is another side to this story as Charlie Smith explores in the Straight. I do not know if the date has any significance.

UPDATE 2 However my conclusion is very much the same as that reached by Bob Simpson MLA – his open letter to the Minister of Finance is well worth reading

Written by Stephen Rees

March 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Buying carbon offsets

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I get a lot of email – and some of it is press releases from organizations that want coverage in this blog. Most do not get more than a cursory glance, since they simply do not have anything to do with what this blog is concerned about.

The press release inserted below caught my attention – and held it – and I started clicking on the links. As I think most of you will be aware I do travel quite a bit, and a lot of that is by air, and I have been also somewhat critical of the opportunities to offset that carbon. Indeed, one program that was actually promoted by Air Canada was for a scheme which said it was about planting trees – but in reality was more to do with cutting them down first.

On my perusal of the project described below and its association with a Vancouver based organisation, I decided to use them to offset my recent trip to Los Cabos. I do not think of this as some have described it as purchasing papal indulgences for sins. This project does seem to be well designed and worthwhile – but that does not mean I am telling you what to do. You must make up your own mind. Even if it does little to save the planet for humanity, if it helps people in the benighted Congo that is worthwhile in itself. And a much better use of a few dollars than the usual seasonal trinkets and trivia, in my opinion.

Wildlife Works & ERA Deliver First REDD+ Project in the Congo Basin Rainforest

VANCOUVER and SAN FRANCISCO – December 19, 2012 – ERA Carbon Offsets Ltd. and Wildlife Works Carbon LLC are pleased to announce the validation and verification of the first REDD+ project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The project has earned 2.5 million tonnes of Verified Emission Reductions to date and will generate an average of 5.6 million tonnes annually. H.E. Mr. Bavon N’sa Mputu Elima, Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism of the DRC stated, “The Ministry welcomes the validation and verification of this project in two rigorous standards – the Verified Carbon Standard and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance Standard. The Department is pleased to work with ERA-Congo and its partners, ERA Carbon Offsets and Wildlife Works, for the protection of forests in the DRC and the improvement of local community livelihood through REDD+ projects.”


The 299,645 hectare Mai Ndombe REDD+ project, a former logging concession in the Bandundu Province, will avoid more than 175 million tonnes of CO2 emissions over the 30-year life of the project. The local forest community of 50,000 Congolese villagers will receive direct benefits from the project in the form of jobs, schools, health clinics, improved food security through better agronomy and redevelopment of robust native fish stocks, and capacity building of local NGOs and Community Based Organizations all financed through transparent and equitable sharing of the carbon revenues.


“As someone who knows personally the hardships that families in these forest communities have to bear, I am overjoyed at the benefits this REDD+ project will bring, making a brighter future for 50,000 of my friends, family members and compatriots in Mai Ndombe,” said local project Manager Jean-Robert Bwangoy Bankanza. The project area is part of the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest intact rainforest after the Amazon. It is part of the Ngiri-Tumba-Mai Ndombe wetland, recognized under the Ramsar Convention as the largest wetland of international importance in the world. It is home to a wide array of biodiversity including highly endangered forest elephants and bonobo chimpanzees, which have been driven away in increasing numbers due to logging and poaching activities. It is expected that the wildlife populations will be restored now that the project area is on a conservation trajectory.


The Government of the DRC will receive a substantial portion of the project income to ensure that REDD+ represents a financially competitive alternative to logging Congo’s rich forests.


The Mai Ndombe REDD+ project is the world’s largest REDD+ project to achieve validation and verification under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), and received Gold Level validation from the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance Standard (CCBA) for exceptional climate change adaptation and biodiversity benefits. According to Jeremy Freund, Wildlife Works’ VP Carbon Development, “This demonstrates that robust VCS methodologies for monitoring, reporting and verification can scale to make REDD+ highly significant to the future of the Congo Basin Rainforest and beyond.” The Joint Venture between ERA and Wildlife Works has both companies cooperating on project finance, technical development, implementation and sales of carbon credits generated from the project.


About REDD

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) was originated by the United Nations (UN) to help stop the destruction of the world’s forests. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and includes the role of conservation, community development and job creation, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks among other benefits.


About Wildlife Works LLC

Wildlife Works is the carbon market’s leading REDD+ project development and management company, applying innovative market-based solutions to the conservation of biodiversity. Over a 15-year history, Wildlife Works established a successful model that uses the emerging marketplace for REDD+ to protect threatened forests and wildlife, and uplift impoverished local communities. The company is recognized for developing the world’s first REDD+ project to successfully achieve issuance of REDD+ carbon credits under the VCS and CCBA Standards. For more information, visit:


About ERA Carbon Offsets Ltd.

As Canada’s largest and most diversified carbon management solutions company, ERA Carbon Offsets Ltd. helps organizations understand, reduce and offset their climate impact. Its team of industry leaders specializes in the origination, development and commercialization of high-quality carbon offset projects and is proud to also provide clients with a comprehensive offering of sustainability consultancy services. A merger of ERA Carbon Offsets and Offsetters, ERA Carbon Offsets Ltd. is based in Vancouver, Canada and has worked with over 150 of the world’s most prestigious organizations including Aimia, Vancity, lululemon athletica, Catalyst Paper, Harbour Air, HSE – Entega, and Shell Canada Limited. ERA is publicly listed company on the Toronto Venture Exchange (TSX-V:ESR) and in Frankfurt:9EA. For more information, please visit us at and

Written by Stephen Rees

December 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Posted in Transportation

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Paying More for Flights Eases Guilt, Not Emissions

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There is a hard hitting article in the New York Times this morning, that rubbishes current carbon offset programs linked to flying.

“The carbon offset has become this magic pill, a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card,” Justin Francis, the managing director of Responsible Travel, one of the world’s largest green travel companies to embrace environmental sustainability, said in an interview. “It’s seductive to the consumer who says, ‘It’s $4 and I’m carbon-neutral, so I can fly all I want.’ ”

Offsets, he argues, are distracting people from making more significant behavioral changes, like flying less.

Except that all the airlines that I have seen reports from recently are noticing greatly reduced demand for air travel. Due to the recession, of course, and probably not that many people are deciding to fly less to save the planet. Though some clearly are.

Guy Dauncey in promotional material promoting his new book observes

Flying represents 2.5% of the cause of climate change. The global livestock industry has a 700% greater impact, causing up to 18% of the warming.

I did not buy any carbon offsets for my bacon sandwich, but I did buy some for my trip to UK in February. It seems clear I did not pay nearly enough:

offsetting the emissions of a flight from London to New York would probably require an extra fee of $200 to $300, far above what any airline is now charging.

But this is what I was told

Your Zerofootprint Offsets purchase represents 1.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The Zerofootprint team would like to thank you for your carbon purchase. Thinking about your lifestyle in terms of its carbon footprint and doing something about it is an important step towards living a sustainable lifestyle and fighting climate change. The $25.60 you have contributed to offset your flight from Vancouver, Vancouver to London, Heathrow will help sustain the important work of supporting Canada’s forests.

Carbon priced at $16 a tonne seems to be a bit cheap – given the cost of repairing the damage that it is going to cause. The effects we are seeing now are not due to current CO2 emissions but those of twenty years ago, and thanks to the “tipping points” we are now seeing the marginal cost of each additional tonne of CO2 is going to be much more expensive in its impact.

But even knowing that, and being environmentally aware, does not make me decide to give up the opportunity of seeing my sister. Just as I still drive a car for trips that could be made by transit but only at double the time and much inconvenience. And I have started the practice of a weekly meatless day – but as much out of concern for my health as for its effect on methane emissions from Alberta steers.

In other places on the web, and not so far very much on this blog, there is a heated debate going on about how much we are going to have to cut back to avoid not the 2℃ of warming  we have been hoping to restrain ourselves for, but the 6℃ that now seems likely by the end of the century if we don’t get our act together at Copenhagen. Much discussion revolves around how people can be persuaded to change their behaviour – and how effective that might be in a country that is determined not to see any reduction in our GDP or production of oil from the tar sands. My choice to go home for my birthday seems trivial compared to Stephen Harper’s choice to do all he can to prevent any agreement on carbon emission reductions which might hurt his friends’ pockets. But I bought the offset ayway. No, I do not view that as a some equivalent to a Papal Indulgence that allows me to sin. Any more than my giving money to Oxfam or Unicef  over the years has changed the ongoing problems of starvation and child poverty. There is some impact – but I acknowledge that it is small and no doubt I could more. Which I think must be a very common view, since the sort of people who voluntarily impoverish themselves in order to take care of others are indeed very rare.

Justin Francis may well be right in his assessment of the effectiveness of the carbon offsets currently available – but simply cancelling the program is not going to make it any better. Children are still dying in Africa every day. Does that mean we should shut down Oxfam and Unicef?  Of course there needs to be better offset programs. Those who can afford to pay for seats in the front of the plane should be paying much more for their offsets – and then price of offsets is obviously going to rise. If it is cap and trade or carbon tax it is going to have to be draconian if it is to have enough impact in time to save humanity. But those who damn current efforts as too little and too late do not help at all to get more people on board voluntarily.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 18, 2009 at 1:55 pm