At Brent Cross Town, we have pledged to tackle the immense challenge of the climate crisis by achieving net zero carbon by 2030. It’s a goal that will take everything we have, from simple solutions like renewable power to technologies that may not even exist yet. Part of the answer will be carbon offsetting, a crucial stepping stone to sustainable cities.
You’ve most likely come across offsetting when booking a flight. Tick a box and for the price of, say, £2 you can pay into a scheme that will balance out the emissions from your flight. It feels too good to be true, cancelling out getting several hundred tonnes of metal 30,000 ft up in the air for less than the cost of an airport cappuccino.
Carbon offsetting schemes certainly deserve a healthy amount of scrutiny. Trying to reverse greenhouse gas emissions is like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube, mixing it up in a huge vat of water and then trying to put it back in. Yet offsetting gets a bad rap when it’s mistaken for this kind of toothpaste-back-in-the-tube miracle cure – that’s a misunderstanding of its role as one of many tools in the net zero carbon toolbox. Instead, it’s a pragmatic measure for today’s world. We can tick off plenty of obvious ways of cutting emissions: renewable energy, low-carbon construction, electric car charging stations. But once all those measures are in place, there’s a stubborn remainder that’s still difficult to shift. A gap remains to be bridged between net zero carbon and the infrastructure and technologies we have now.