Here at Thomson, we like to do our bit for the environment. And reducing our carbon footprint is up there as one of the biggies. But what’s it all about? We work closely with The CarbonNeutral Company, so who better to give you the lowdown on all the basics.
So, what’s the big deal about carbon?
Well, carbon’s a big deal because it’s a major contributor to climate change. Carbon, or more specifically carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas, which acts like a blanket around the earth and traps in heat that would otherwise escape into space.
Carbon dioxide is released from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. At the moment we use these fuels to carry out most human activities – from heating and lighting buildings, to powering cars and planes. The carbon that we generate from these activities is added to the atmosphere, creating a thicker ‘blanket’ around the earth, making it warmer and warmer every year. We can already see the negative effects of this, as climate change causes us to experience higher temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions.
If we’re to stop climate change we need to reduce the amount of carbon we use, both by being more sustainable and changing the technologies we use to power our lives.
What is Thomson doing to reduce its carbon footprint?
Thomson, together with First Choice, recognises that holidays have an impact on the environment. Its airline Thomson Airways makes up the majority of their carbon emissions, so it has made a commitment to remain one of Europe’s most fuel efficient airlines. It has also committed to reduce the annual carbon footprint of its ground based operations – that includes shops and offices – by 3000 tonnes of CO2. This is part of Holidays Forever – its commitment to sustainability. Although Thomson is working to reduce its own carbon footprint, it is also supporting carbon offsetting projects around the world.
What’s carbon offsetting?
Carbon offsetting can seem incredibly complicated if you don’t have a scientific background, but the basic principle behind it is actually very simple: buying a carbon offset prevents one tonne of carbon dioxide from being released in to the atmosphere.
To try and put that in perspective, a tonne is the amount of carbon produced from driving 3,000 miles in an average sized car, or making 57,000 cups of tea – and most carbon offsetting projects remove thousands of tonnes of carbon each year.
Carbon offsets are used to fund activities that prevent carbon being released. Mainly this is by investing in renewable technologies, such as windfarms and hydro power, which can provide power to communities without them needing to burn fossil fuels. Renewable technologies are still relatively new and are often more expensive to install, so the money from carbon offsets makes them possible.
Carbon offset projects are also used to protect or restore forestland. Forests are often described as the ‘lungs’ of the world as trees convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. Deforestation is responsible for 15% of the world’s carbon emissions each year, so protecting them – often by giving the people who rely on them for income and fuel more sustainable means of living – is extremely important to preserving the environment.
Why is carbon offsetting good for sustainable development?
The rules governing carbon offset projects mean they are often in developing countries, helping them develop in a more sustainable way without such a big reliance on fossil fuels.
Removing carbon from the atmosphere benefits the whole planet, but many projects have benefits for the communities where they are based. This might be creating employment in areas where jobs are scarce, or improving health by removing air pollution. Each project is verified to internationally recognised standards, and many of these standards have sustainable development targets built in, whether it’s the project developer working with the local community to improve school or health facilities, or protecting and monitoring wildlife on forestland.
How is carbon measured?
As reductions in carbon dioxide emissions occur at offset projects all over the world, the schemes have to be monitored closely in order to prove that these reductions take place.
Thomson and First Choice’s chosen offset projects are verified to internationally recognised standards such as The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and The Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) – that guarantee they deliver the reductions stated, and benefit the local communities and biodiversity in the region.
How is Thomson offsetting carbon?
Thomson, together with First Choice, has made a commitment to save more than one million tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2014. It plans to do this by supporting clean energy and energy efficiency and forestry projects in the destinations they go to. One of the projects it supports is the Kasigau Corridor project in Kenya, which is the world’s first Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) to be verified by the The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).
This is part of Holidays Forever, Thomson and First Choice’s commitment to sustainability.
Rebecca Fay and Jeremy Ellis, Thomson’s Marketing Director, will be going out to Kenya to visit the Kasigau project this week. Jeremy will be posting his thoughts about this great initiative that is helping tackle climate change and support local communities.