There are new indulgences on the market in the form of carbon offsets. The modern-day Pardoners are companies like Climate Care, the Carbon Neutral Company, Offset My Life and many others. These selfstyled ‘eco-capitalists’ are building up what they claim are ‘good climate deeds’ through projects which supposedly reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions. These wholesale emissions reductions can then be profitably sold back at retail prices to modern-day sinners who have money, but not necessarily the time or inclination to take responsibility for their emissions, and can afford to buy the surplus ‘good deeds’ from the offset companies.
The report highlights several ways in which this approach to climate change is fundamentally flawed. The first chapter examines how the existence of offset schemes presents the public with an opportunity to take a ‘business as usual’ attitude to the climate change threat. Instead of encouraging individuals and institutions to profoundly change consumption patterns as well as social, economic and political structures, we are being asked to believe that paying a little extra for certain goods and services is sufficient. For example, if one is willing to pay a bit more for ‘offset petrol’ one doesn't have to worry about how much is consumed, because the price automatically includes offsetting the emissions it produces.