Q. Is carbon balancing a valid approach?
The short answer is yes, if done as a secondary action to account for ‘unavoidable emissions’ whilst on an active journey toward lower carbon travel, and if the climate investments are valid and verifiable.
The long answer is that there are valid criticisms of carbon offsetting or ‘balancing’ such as: it gives a social licence to those who intend to continue ‘business as usual’ and who can afford to ‘pay to pollute’. On the latter point, we believe that wealthier nations and companies do need to invest in a sustainable future on behalf of all humanity – global inequality is a significant barrier to progress.
On the point of effectiveness, European Commission research  concluded in 2017 that 85% of offsetting initiatives under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) simply haven’t delivered the carbon benefits they claimed. The EU are currently abandoning this mechanism. There were a number of problems (1) It did give polluters globally a mechanism to ‘pay to pollute’, (2) which activities delivered climate benefits wasn’t defined well enough and (3) projects were not regulated adequately. Well-intended, but ultimately it didn’t work.
However, it does not translate that planting trees responsibly, protecting forests, or investing in clean energy, does not deliver measurable climate and nature benefits – it does. Fact. So, let’s get on with what needs to be done.
Our commitment is to balancing unavoidable emissions, after taking action to reduce emissions. Our investments in climate solutions are transparent and have clear benefits – our UK woodland investments are regulated by the UK Woodland Carbon Code and come with carbon offset certificates. Carbon balancing and offsetting worldwide is through Verified Carbon Standard and / or REDD+ (reducing emissions from forest degradation and deforestation) for global projects.
For our Energy Revolution programme, we prioritise community scale clean energy generation projects which are community-benefit and community-led: empowering local people to access affordable renewable energy while also providing education into the need to transition away from fossil fuels to a low carbon economy. Every kW hour from our renewable energy investments replaces fossil-fuel energy generation.
All of our projects prevent carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere or remove carbon through tree planting. Additionally, we prioritise project partners who are actively supporting communities that are already affected by climate change and working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: especially in restoring ecosystems; alleviating poverty, providing healthcare and education, halting and reversing land degradation and biodiversity loss, and creating sustainable livelihoods.
Our approach is simple, transparent and robust:
We work with members to help them calculate and understand travel-related carbon emissions and we support them to take action to reduce these impacts. Whilst on this journey, we offer the option to balance unavoidable emissions in two ways:
- Forest protection, planting and community investment through the Trees+ programme
- Renewable energy investments through the Energy Revolution programme
We are a registered UK Charity with excellent governance standards and industry leaders as trustees. We work with established and inspirational partners, and we undertake in-depth due diligence on behalf of our members and report back on the impact of our investments annually.
We believe that a lack of understanding, or concerns about how offsetting has been done badly, should not prevent anyone from investing in a sustainable future, we are here to support members to take responsible and effective action.
Q. Shouldn’t we just wait for legislation or technology to change?
A. No, the reality is we can’t afford to – everyone in society must actively take steps toward reducing emissions. We must all adapt to managing our businesses with less environmental impacts.
Projects like ecolibrium exist in part because of the relative vacuum of government action or economic drivers toward sustainable practices. The Governments own Committee on Climate Change (CCC) concluded in Summer 2019 that: ‘UK action to curb greenhouse gas emissions is lagging far behind what is required, even to meet previous less stringent emissions targets. Over the past year, the government has delivered just one of the 25 critical policies needed to get emissions reductions back on track’.
We believe we must come together as an industry to show leadership and take action in the areas we are able.
The music industry is orientated around live events & shows and this represents a considerable percentage of emissions and sector income. Recording artists are not likely to stop touring in future and festivals, concerts and events will not cease to exist, so we believe the pragmatic and positive approach is to work with the sector to inspire more sustainable approaches to travel and investment into climate solutions.
Q. What does the term ‘unavoidable’ emissions mean?
A. We view unavoidable emissions as those that an organisation considers essential to operate whilst on a journey toward reducing their travel-rated carbon emissions. As a charity we do everything within our means to provide knowledge and inspiration to everyone in the events and music industry to reduce travel emissions.
Q. Why are the costs for balancing emissions different for Energy Revolution and Trees+ programmes?
A. The costs are different for mitigating a tonne of carbon for each programme because they are completely different activities. A full methodology is provided on the programme pages.
Q. Do you have any other questions or thoughts? Tell us if we can do better
A. We welcome your questions and ideas. We are a charity founded by leaders in the live events industry to take responsibility for and tackle our industry’s impacts. We take what we do seriously, have excellent governance, and the expertise that is required to do things right. But there is always more to learn, as contexts change and new ideas emerge, so please tell us what you think and how we can do things better.
 Source: https://ec.europa.eu/clima/sites/clima/files/ets/docs/clean_dev_mechanism_en.pdf
 The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is one of the Flexible Mechanisms defined in the Kyoto Protocol (IPCC, 2007) that provides for emissions reduction projects which generate Certified Emission Reduction units (CERs) which may be traded in emissions trading schemes
 Reducing UK emissions: 2019 Progress Report to Parliament (UK Committee on Climate Change, July 2019) – https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/reducing-uk-emissions-2019-progress-report-to-parliament/