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Offsets In The Air In San Francisco

Publication Date: 
January 02, 2009
The New York Times
Kate Galbraith

Professor Michael Wara is quoted in a New York Times story about San Francisco Airport's carbon offset trading program:

Michael Wara, an expert in this area and an assistant professor at Stanford Law School...said travelers should be asking plenty of questions about the offsets.

“Joe or Jane Q. Public wants to be as sure as possible that (1) said gas would have been emitted without their purchase (2) that said gas was in fact not emitted, and (3) that this certified non-event has not been sold to more than once,” Mr. Wara said in an e-mail message.

How to do that? Mr. Wara recommended making sure that the seller uses an approved voluntary offset methodology, and that a reputable third party verifier is used to certify the project and its accompanying emissions reduction. He also said the offsets ought to be registered after they have been sold, with guarantees that they will not be used again.

“If it were me,” Mr. Wara said, “I’d take a look at my frequent flier account once a year, add up the miles, do the math with an online calculator to go from miles flown to carbon emitted.” Mr. Ware said he would then seek out a reputable offset provider from whom he could obtain detailed information on how his purchase was actually generating a climate benefit.

“That way I could be sure of what I was getting,” he said.