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Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the questions that we often get asked are listed below. If you can't find what you're looking for, get in touch.

Traditional offsetting works by investing in projects in the developing world that reduce emissions or absorb greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. Typical projects include tree planting, renewable energy, biofuel cultivation and improving building efficiency.

Carbon Retirement is a fundamentally different approach. We buy heavy industry's rights to release greenhouse gases. Read about why we're the most effective on this page and why we're better for your business here.

A significant majority of scientists agree that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are causing an increase in the average temperature of the earth's surface.

Greenhouses gases trap heat in the earth's atmosphere, and their concentration has increased considerably over the past century. Today's atmosphere contains one third more carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas) than at the start of the industrial revolution. Major sources of greenhouse gases include power stations, industrial factories, transport and agriculture.

As the average temperature rises, the risk of extreme weather, flooding and drought increases. Many security analysts forecast that these changes would lead to mass migration and civil and international conflict. To reduce the risk of climate change in the future, significant reductions in human emissions will be required.

Research into human interaction with the climate has grown extensively over the past twenty years. It is now thought that a global cut by 2050 of 80% - 90% below the 1990 level is necessary to reduce climate risk to an acceptable level.

Carbon offsetting is paying others to reduce emissions on your behalf.

Carbon Retirement does this by reducing emissions from heavy industry in Europe. While our approach is robust and transparent, if you are using it to offset your carbon footprint then we encourage you to look at reducing your own emissions first. Think of our offsets as a way to take responsibility for your unavoidable emissions, or simply as a way to cut Europe's carbon footprint.

For more information on carbon offsetting, visit the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change page about carbon offsetting

If you use a different currency, it is very likely that your credit or debit card will allow you to pay in British Pound Sterling. Just follow our normal process. The amount you pay in your currency will depend on the current exchange rate.

The EU Emission Trading Scheme, or the EU ETS, is a system that European governments use to support their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It limits carbon dioxide emissions from a range of industries, including power generation, offshore extraction, cement production, iron and steel, paper and pulp and chemical processing. Carbon Retirement buys credits out of the EU ETS. You can read more about it on out our page about the EU ETS.

EU Emission Allowances, or EUAs, are the credits that are allocated to the companies covered by the EU Emission Trading Scheme. Each one represents the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide. There are a fixed number of EUAs available to industries covered by the EU Emission Trading Scheme. EUAs are tradable. Carbon Retirement buys and retires EUAs.

For orders under 100 tonnes (which is the maximum order that can be made over the website) we use today's market price of EUAs and add the following elements to it:

Example market price for one Phase 2 EUA
£ 10.25
+ our admin fee* (0%) £ 0.00
= price excluding VAT £ 10.25
+ VAT £ 0.00
Price including VAT £ 10.25

*Admin fee. The admin fee includes a) the portion of your money that we use to pay the company's costs and b) a small fee that we add to website orders to reflect the risk of changing market prices. We combine your order with other customers' orders before making a lump purchase of EUAs, to keep the transaction costs down. If the market price has gone up in the meantime, we risk not being able to purchase your full order. Part of the admin fee we charge covers this risk.

VAT is charged at 20%. Our VAT details will be provided in your receipt.

Orders over 100 tonnes benefit from lower fees - please get in touch for a quote if you wish to offset over 100 tonnes.

Fundamentally, the price of EUAs is determined by the perceived cost of complying with the reduction required by the EU Emission Trading Scheme. During trading, the market participants' views of the cost of achieving the reduction can change.

If, for example, today's price of carbon is £15 per tonne and a new technology is discovered that could reduce emissions in one of the industries covered by the scheme for £10 per tonne, the price of EUAs would fall as that industry invests in the new technology and sells its surplus EUAs in the market.

The energy market is an important driver of the EUA price. When demand for energy is high, demand for EUAs to cover the generation rises too. Burning coal produces particularly large quantities of greenhouse gases, so the price of EUAs is sensitive to demand for coal.

We purchase EUAs either from an exchange, a market broker a or regulated participant in the market. As EUAs are freely tradable between market participants, the source of an EUA does not affect the environmental benefit of retiring it.

There are three potential reasons why different offsets cost different amounts.

  1. There are different ways to reduce emissions and they cost different amounts. Ideally, an offset would be both cheap and reliable, but in reality it doesn't usually work like that. Our price reflects the real cost of reducing industrial emissions in Europe. While this is a very accurate and reliable way to offset carbon emissions, it is often more expensive per tonne than projects in the developing world.
  2. Companies charge different amounts for their services. We aim to keep our overheads low so that as much money as possible is directed towards reducing emissions. We are very transparent about our pricing. For more information see How is the price calculated?
  3. Companies calculate the quantity of offsets you need to buy for the same activity in different ways. Occasionally this could be the reason for a difference in price, but differences in calculations are usually minimal. Our calculator uses data and calculation methodologies recommended by Defra and DECC (the UK government environment departments).

We don't think we're fence-sitting here by saying sort of.

We facilitate emission reductions in Europe, and we're dealing with major energy-intensive industries, so there's less opportunity for helping out communities at the same time.

The social benefits of offsetting projects can be hard to measure and we need to remember that our aim here is to reduce emissions. Globally, emission reduction and mitigation of climate change will have plenty of social benefits. We're focused on making sure the emission reductions happen.

While Carbon Retirement aims to have a significant effect on the carbon credit market, the market is sufficiently large that we do not anticipate retiring as many credits as the power generation industry, for example, holds.

No. The price of Phase 1 EUAs dropped when analysts realised in spring 2006 that European governments had allocated so many allowances that the regulated industries did not have to make reductions. This was because the allocation plans were based on estimates of emissions, rather than audited measurements.

The allocation plans behind Phase 2 are based on extensive and credible measurement of the industries' emissions, and the industries within the scheme will have to make emission reductions. This is why the price of Phase 2 credits remained strong when the Phase 1 credits collapsed. Independent analysts have recently assessed the allocation for Phase 2 and forecast that credits will be scarce.

EUAs are electronic certificates distributed to industry by European governments. Each represents the right to release one tonne of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There are a fixed number of EUAs. Carbon Retirement buys EUAs.

CERs are awarded by the United Nations to projects in the developing world that reduce emissions. Companies in the EU Emission Trading Scheme are allowed to offset a small proportion of their emissions using CERs.

There are two key differences.

  1. Retiring EUAs reduces emissions in Europe, while retiring CERs reduces emissions in developing countries. See What's the difference between a Certified Emission Reduction (CER) and an EU Emission Allowance (EUA)?
  2. Retiring CERs raises questions about whether the funded projects would have happened anyway. This lack of certainty about the 'additionality' of the projects has been acknowledged by the Clean Development Mechanism Executive Board, the committee which oversees the creation of this sort of carbon credit. EUAs are not generated by projects and retiring them is not open to the same challenge.

Once you have entered data into the calculator, we multiply it by emissions factors. For example, if you input that you have driven a certain number of miles in a large petrol car, we multiply that distance by a factor showing the greenhouse gases released for each mile.

The emissions included are the three major greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). 

As well as the direct emissions associated with an activity, we also include the indirect emissions.  For example as well as the exhaust fumes from driving we also include the emissions associated with getting the petrol to the pump in the first place.

The emissions factors we use and the methodology behind the calculator follow the UK government's guidelines for calculating a carbon footprint.

In order to calculate the carbon emissions associated with a flight, we need to know the distance travelled. To calculate this, we ask you to provide the origin and destination airports. We then use the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of these places to work out the distance between them, and then increase this by 9% (recommended by Defra to account for non-direct flight paths and stacking at airports during periods of heavy congestion). Our international flight calculations assume travel in economy class.

For flights we also take account of radiative forcing. Radiative forcing is the name for the additional impact that flight emissions have on the environment because of other gases and emissions produced, as well as the fact that they are being deposited directly into the upper atmosphere. To account for this, the emissions are multiplied by a factor of 1.9, as recommended by the Department for Transport and the IPCC.

If you have used a calculator on another website, you can offset the footprint that it came up with by entering it into our website.

No. The cap in the EU ETS is fixed and has been fixed since the start of the scheme in 2005. The number of permits has decreased annually since then and will continue to do so until at least 2020. The target is “to reduce the overall greenhouse gas emissions of the Community by at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and by 30% provided that other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emission reductions” (Directive 2009/29/EC page 1, (3)), which the EU will achieve through an annual decrease in the number of allowances by 1.74% (Directive 2009/29/EC page 2, (13)).

In the current phase (Phase II), the number of allowances is determined by individual member states and monitored by the EC in line with various criteria (see (8) here). With the introduction of Phase III in 2012, the EC will manage the cap and national allocations centrally.

We follow UK government guidelines in measuring an organisation’s carbon footprint.

In line with the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s carbon neutral guidance we always include scope 1 and 2 emissions (direct emissions and energy use), and work with organisations to identify and include significant scope 3 emissions (for example business travel, commuting, waste, large sources of emissions in the supply chain or product delivery and use). 

We work with clients to collect the relevant data and use Defra emissions factors to calculate the carbon footprint.


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What people say

  • "This might just be the world's first truly ethical offseting scheme."

    John Grant, Author of The Green Marketing Manifesto
  • "I have never been a fan of carbon offsetting but Carbon Retirement is different"

    Richard Ellis, Group Head of CSR Alliance Boots
  • "I have long thought European Allowances were the best alternative to offsets"

    Joseph Romm, Former environment advisor to Bill Clinton
  • "Carbon Retirement is an innovative idea that has clear differentiation in the market"

    Jo Hill, Unltd.
  • “We benefit from Carbon Retirement's innovative and responsible approach to carbon offsetting.”

    Adam Black, Head of Sustainability Doughty Hanson

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