The targetneutral initiative will let motorists work out their emissions taking into account factors like the vehicle they drive, average mileage and fuel used and then pay to support carbon reduction schemes around the world in an attempt to cancel out their contribution to climate change.

For the driver of an average car doing the average 10,000 miles per year, BP estimates this is likely to cost somewhere in the region of £20.

Participating projects will initially include a wind farm in Karnataka, India, and biogas schemes in several other Indian states as well as plans to extract methane from Mexican pig farms and burn it to produce electricity.

Drivers who sign up to the targetneutral scheme will be able to receive regular updates on new projects, which are expected to include a wide variety of technologies and will follow strict procedures to ensure their integrity, modelled on those set up by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for emissions reduction projects developed under the Kyoto Protocol.

Targetneutral will be run as a corporate entity separate from BP and will not make a profit for the company.

The scheme has been developed in consultation with leading NGOs and will be advised and monitored by an independent advisory and assurance panel chaired by Jonathon Porritt, founding director of Forum for the Future.

The apparent irony of a major oil and gas company selling carbon credits to the public has not been lost on some who would consider themselves environmentalists, with the Green Party, for example, calling the scheme a ‘greenwash’.

BP was itself listed as the second largest corporate emitter of carbon dioxide in the Carbon 100 Index, a study published by Trucost in June 2005 looking at the emissions of FTSE 100 listed companies (see related story).

But a spokesman for the company told edie that it was also one of the world’s biggest investors in lower-carbon fuels and technologies.

“BP’s energy efficiency projects deliver emissions reductions of over 5 million tonnes each year,” he said.

“The company is aiming to invest up to US$8 billion in a low carbon electricity business called BP Alternative Energy and has pledged US$500 million for an energy biosciences institute to research new and cleaner energy, principally for road transport.

“Following a five year program to reduce and replace CO2 emissions where possible, BP’s UK road fuel truck emissions in 2005 were 32,555 tonnes. These are now neutralised.”

He went on to say that BP was encouraging motorists to reduce their emissions by driving less and being more fuel efficient and to replace fuel, oil, tyres and even their car with more efficient products and models before neutralising the effects of emissions that cannot be reduced by buying the offsets.

The Greens remained unconvinced by the scheme, with the party’s principal speaker Keith Taylor saying: “BP are saying what every car salesman in the country wants them to – carry on driving no matter what. Headline grabbing off-setting schemes like this are token measures, and fail to get to the heart of the matter that road transport accounts for about a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions, and car ownership across the globe is increasing.

“Displacing the problem with feel-good schemes is not the same thing as solving it.

“We urgently need to reduce carbon emissions, and in the absence of non-polluting vehicles this means reducing private and freight motoring.”

More information on the scheme can be found on the targetneutral website.

Sam Bond

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