Charity to ‘purify’ carbon market

Britain's first climate change charity committed to reducing carbon emissions by buying up the right to pollute hit the carbon market this week.

Pure – the “clean planet trust” – will use donated money to buy carbon credits and cancel them, reducing the total amount of credits on the market and consequently cutting the amount of CO2 industry is allowed to emit into the atmosphere.

An over-abundance of carbon credits causes their price to plummet – a problem that has blighted the European Emissions Trading Scheme (see related story) – and makes it cheap for companies to pollute, with the net effect of carbon trading failing to serve its intended purpose of curbing carbon emissions.

“We buy the credits and won’t sell them on at a higher price to get the money to invest in other projects – we buy the emission reductions and cancel them,” Jed Jones from the UK Climate Change Projects Office, a trustee of Pure, told edie.

“This basically means that there are fewer credits available to those who are emitting carbon dioxide so if it gets to the point where the price is very high it might be financially better for companies to reduce emissions than to buy credits. And that’s what we’re aiming to do,” he explained.

Apart from straightforward donations that will buy out the right to emit carbon, the charity helps business and individuals calculate their ‘carbon footprint’ and offset part or all of it through internationally regulated offset projects.

Pure has the stated aim of offsetting a million tonnes of CO2 each year – equivalent to a medium-sized UK power station.

First clients include the Teachers’ Building Society, which is offseting their entire annual emissions through Pure, as well as mobile phone recyclers Aurom. The charity is also supported by the European Commission, former director general of the CBI Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, and the carbon disclosure project.

Mike Hislop, marketing manager at the Teachers’ Building Society, told edie that the annual £500 the society is paying to offset its emissions is a “substantial amount” for a company staffed by 20-odd employees but that it was a worthwhile investment. The TBS was hoping for their involvement with Pure to have a wide-reaching influence, he said:

“We work within the educational sector, so we are hoping that teachers will visit the Pure website and work out their carbon emissions both for themselves or for their students.

Climate Change minister Ian Pearson welcomed the new charity and commended its credibility: “The Scheme offers credits that have been generated from emissions reductions that are regulated, verified and for which there is a clear audit trail.

“We are looking at what the Government can do in this area to help both consumers and industry, and hope to make an announcement in the next few weeks,” he said at the launch in Hyde Park, London.

Mike Hislop said that the charitable status increased the credibility of the scheme from the point of view of his company: “It’s definitely important to us that it’s a charity, because we wanted to make sure that any investment we make is done in a credible way – and they’ve been able to demonstrate that to us.”

More information about Pure can be found here.

Goska Romanowicz

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