By Wendy Stueck, reposted from the The Globe and Mail, Published
As concepts go, carbon offsets are a simple thing: for every ton of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere, a ton can be “offset” by, say, using wood waste instead of coal in a cement manufacturing plant.
The hard part comes in determining what should and shouldn’t qualify as an offset and setting up a system to track and trade the units. As offset systems have evolved over the past two decades, there have been problems with verification as well as charges that carbon offsets let industry and governments take a ‘business as usual’ approach instead of investing in technology to reduce climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite the hiccups, a carbon market has emerged, with the World Bank pegging its worth at about $176-billion (U.S.) in 2011. One of the players in that market is ERA Carbon Offsets Ltd., a Vancouver-based company. Last year, the firm acquired Offsetters, a company co-founded in 2005 by James Tansey, an associate professor at University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. Dr. Tansey is now CEO of the merged company, which has a portfolio of projects that include selling carbon offsets from the stretch of B.C. coast known as the Great Bear Rainforest.
The Globe and Mail spoke to Dr. Tansey a few days after Jan. 1, when California and Quebec became the first jurisdictions in North America to adopt carbon cap-and-trade regulations under the Western Climate Initiative.