Frequent Fliers and Carbon Banks

ACORN ACORN International

New Orleans       Visiting with old friends from Montana and Texas the other night, out of the blue one of my buddies asked me what I thought about the “carbon bank?”  I’m not a big fan of corporations not actually reducing their carbon and polluting footprint, but buying credits to claim they are doing something rather than really doing something.

I’m not saying it’s evil, but I’m skeptical, especially when close inspection of some of these deals often indicates that they are piggybacking what governments and nonprofits were doing anyway.   The Organizers’ Forum found that to be the case when we visited Paraguay a couple of years ago.  In those cases, it’s just public relations and greenwashing spin, rather than a real commitment either way.  My immediate response to the question was a quick and intemperate, “I think it’s probably baloney,” although I didn’t actually say the word baloney, but instead referred to deposits from an esteemed member of the animal kingdom known well in Montana and Texas.

Another one of the group mentioned the problem of flying and its carbon footprint.  He had seen something that suggested flights needed to be offset with a fifty-dollar purchase of a carbon credit.  He had raised it with his environmental nonprofit, and they had nixed him allocating it because it would set a precedent in their national organization.  He was committed to the concept though and controlled his office’s budget, so was determined to press forward with his demand with his bosses.

If my friend was this serious about all of this, in fairness, I thought I should take another look.  I’m a frequent flyer and have been for decades.  ACORN’s work in fifteen countries also means that often when I’m in the air, there are serious distances involved.  I have way more than a million miles on United, so I’m sometimes a Premier Gold interloper on upgrades.  Delta sent me their mileage program since I have 350,000 miles with them.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so “what me worry, this is my work” about this flying and carbon thing.  I read recently that JetBlue even now allows their mileage program users to buy carbon credits rather than another trip.  Something is happening here.

Looking around I first came to the World Carbon Bank.  They claim…

The World Carbon bank is a non-profit platform whose mission is to accelerate the carbon sustainability goal by using individual carbon exchanges. Citizens can purchase carbon credits at much lower prices from Individuals and businesses worldwide, who earn extra carbon credits from the CUDC by offsetting carbon emissions using their own methods. Instead of offsetting carbon emission by themselves or paying high carbon bills to the Carbon Union, people can purchase carbon credits at much lower prices from the World Carbon Bank, a nonprofit individual carbon exchange platform. It connects you to individuals and businesses worldwide, who earn extra carbon credits by offsetting carbon dioxide. The World Carbon Bank provides new job opportunities for climate refugees and turns heavy carbon emitting businesses into sustainable ones.

The Carbon Union claims that everyone gets a 5.5-kilogram carbon credit to spend daily, and should buy a credit for usage that exceeds that level.  They also argue that the average carbon usage in the United States is 48.4 kilograms a day.  Their argument is that everyone over should be paying to buy a credit.  The amounts on their website were confusing.  In one place it said one should pay $49 and in the diagram is said one should pay $42.90.  Probably doesn’t matter which number is right, because few people or businesses are going to pay almost $50 a day on this side of the one-percent, and they sure aren’t paying either, despite profiting from the problem.

My friend thought the number was $50 for every flight, but he may have been assuming he was way below the US average.  This is complicated, but interesting.  Maybe it’s not baloney, but suggesting that our membership organization of low-and-moderate income families should start paying $50 every time I board a plane, I think we’d have to do a lot more research than my quick Google search about what that money was buying and whether or not it was the real deal.