As well as helping environmental projects that cannot get funding on their own, carbon offsetting provides businesses with more opportunities to reduce their carbon footprints. Many companies cannot reduce their corporate carbon offsetting emissions as much as they want. For example, software companies where the footprint is already small but want to do more. It is simply not possible to serve the markets of other industries at present with low-carbon options, such as heavy equipment or ocean shipping.
To compensate for emissions that businesses cannot eliminate, businesses can help fund environmental projects that reduce emissions by corporate carbon offsetting. Even though offset purchases are generally voluntary, there are jurisdictions where they must comply with local standards and regulations to avoid penalties. In addition, the carbon offset system enables regulators to enforce environmental policies: This is another benefit.
As well as providing a structure for companies to track their carbon footprint, offsets allow them to claim that they are “carbon neutral” or even “carbon negative.” Such companies are preferred by many consumers today. In general, carbon offsetting provides valuable resources to projects that either sequester carbon or prevent emissions, such as renewable energy production or clean energy appliances, through forest growth and other mechanisms.
They offer an alternative to more conventional financing mechanisms by focusing on projects unlikely to attract other types of funding, such as first-of-its-kind projects in a given region. Through forest growth and other methods, carbon offsetting can provide valuable resources for projects that reduce emissions, such as renewable energy production and clean energy appliances, or sequester carbon through forest growth.
They provide an alternative to more conventional financing methods by focusing on projects that are less likely to attract other types of funding, such as a first-of-its-kind project in a particular region. Once proven viability has been achieved, a successful offset project is generally easier to attract other funding sources for similar, follow-on projects.
In addition to criticisms of carbon offsets, some people object philosophically, arguing that wealthy companies should not be able to buy their way out of greenhouse gas emissions but should take responsibility for them directly. It has also been claimed that offsets undermine efforts to take more aggressive collective action, such as enacting a carbon tax.
Do offsets allow polluters to escape too easily? Moreover, some criticize carbon offsets from a broader perspective: As a result of global warming and its impacts, we are in a climate emergency, so reducing our fossil fuel use is the only realistic way to avoid further catastrophes.