Travel agent scraps “medieval pardons” for emissions

October 16, 2009

A travel agent is ditching an offer allowing holidaymakers to pay extra if they feel guilty about the greenhouse gases created by their flights, saying it’s like selling “medieval pardons”.

responsibletravel.com said it was dropping carbon offsets from its website, bucking an industry trend of recent years.

Ever more airlines and travel groups offer customers the option of paying a bit more to plant trees in Africa, for instance, or to help build a wind farm in India to soak up greenhouse gases equal to those emitted by their vacations.

“We believe that the travel industry’s priority must be to reduce carbon emissions, rather than to offset,” said Justin Francis, managing director of the British-based firm.

“Carbon offsets distract tourists from the need to reduce their emissions. They create a ‘medieval pardon’ for us to carry on behaving in the same way (or worse),” he said.

The company said: “In 2002 we were the first travel agent to offer carbon offsetting, in 2009 we believe we are one of the first to stop offering offsets to customers.”

The firm said it agreed with environmental group Friends of the Earth that offsets were a “dangerous distraction”.  “Ultimately we need to reduce our carbon emissions. We can do this by flying less – travelling by train or taking holidays closer to home for example, and by making carbon reductions in other areas of our lifestyles too, alongside travel,” it said.

Criticising travel — rather than selling letting people buy indulgences for a high-carbon lifestyle — sounds like shooting yourself in the foot if you are selling holidays.

Or is this a smart decision?

10 comments

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It depends. It’s probably the only real way for consumers to signal to holiday providers that they are interested in low carbon travel. It will be interesting to see how many consumers are.

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

So the alternative to carbon offsets is nothing? Seriously, that seems pretty dumb to me. I agree that we all need to find way to reduce our emissions in practical ways, but people will always need to travel and offsets offer a reasonable way for people to do something good.I am not saying that we shouldn’t encourage reductions, but when somebody who has already reduced their emissions needs to fly somewhere, what do you expect them to do. Feel guilty about it?

Paul, people do not “always need to travel”, as you put it. Most travel is unnecessary and purely for fun

Posted by Rimu | Report as abusive

Here is a free alternative, that does just as much good as any you would ever pay for (and you get a cool certificate!):http://www.freecarbonoffse ts.comDon't pay for carbon offsets.

Posted by Kenny | Report as abusive

Paul: YES! That is exactly what I want them to do. If you get on an airplane directing tons and tons of carbon directly into the atmosphere, I expect you to feel VERY guilty. Phony ‘offsets’ are just to line pockets with green, not be green.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Kenny, I’ve checked that site out. Please tell me you’re kidding, because I have only so much faith in human sanity and this is going to about do it for what’s left.I think that if the travel agent does appropriate education in accordance with their beliefs, it will be harmless and beneficial to also provide the service discussed.

Posted by Sigmund Fraud | Report as abusive

Airlines should pay the carbon offsets, since they’re directly producing the emissions. If they do, they should disclose it publicly and pass the cost of those offsets on to customers. Environmentally conscious travelers could then deliberately travel on airlines that buy the carbon offsets, putting pressure on other airlines to do the same. This is what seems fair to me. it is likely to backfire, however, since people always nearly fly whichever airline is cheapest, but travel agencies could (should be required to?) point out whether an airline is paying for the offsets.

Posted by Jevanyn | Report as abusive

Carbon offsetting may be the feasible way of being earth-friendly while enjoying a vacation. It’s better than not having any efforts at all.

great post!!i totaly agree with u.

the first picture you have uploaded is good.

Posted by hisa | Report as abusive

[...] it goes against the recent trends of offering these credits, one airline has taken a stand (see article). The article explains that “carbon offsets distract tourists from the need to reduce their [...]