QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Emissions reduction and the mitigation of climate change

What is CO₂ emissions compensation and how does it reduce CO₂?

Since the conclusion of the Paris climate talks in 2015, all states have been called on to avoid and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the greatest extent possible. To this end, nations must expand the utilisation of renewable energies, reorganise agricultural systems, and restructure the transport sector, to name a few examples. When an individual state is able to do so is usually a question of financing. This is where compensation comes in. Wherever and whenever we cannot avoid greenhouse gas emissions, we must take responsibility for them through a financial payment that funds measures to reduce emissions – measures that would either be impossible to see through without financial support or that would otherwise not go into effect until a much later time. Emissions have a certain cost; this cost can be covered by funding a project elsewhere which reduces the corresponding quantity of original greenhouse gas emissions.

We can’t organise our lives and economies completely without generating these emissions, but we can significantly reduce them. Nevertheless, there are numerous activities we can’t avoid which affect the climate. That’s why offsetting emissions must be kept in mind.

Compensation has further positive features. On the one hand, consumers become aware of their actions and the emissions they generate. This knowledge can help them reconsider their activities or be more efficient.

On the other hand, compensation projects also have a positive effect in partner countries, moving them toward sustainable development. For example, climate change is mitigated when growing economies rapidly utilise renewable energies without taking the coal detour.

Which greenhouse gas emissions can be offset?

There are seven greenhouse gases which have particularly high impact on the climate. Their overall effect on the climate is given in “tCO₂e”, whereby the “e” stands for equivalent. This denotes that all greenhouse gases can be measured. Consumers can count up emissions from nearly all their activities and offset them through an emissions reduction programme. This applies to private individuals as well as to business activities and production processes.

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is the sum of all greenhouse gas emissions generated by the activities of a person, the manufacturing of a product, or the provision of a service, usually measured in weight (tons). The footprint is a figurative translation into the amount of biologically productive area (land and water) on Earth needed to absorb these emissions.

What makes compensation measures worthwhile and effective?

Effective emission reduction projects are characterised by the fact that:

  • CO₂-intensive technologies or processes are replaced by innovative measures that significantly reduce emissions;
  • substantial financial, structural or technological hurdles to realising projects are overcome thanks to funding from carbon credits;
  • they demonstrably lead to a permanent reduction in CO₂.
Why is compensation not a “selling of indulgences”?

To mitigate climate change, we know it is best to avoid or reduce CO₂ emissions as far as possible. Unfortunately, this can’t always happen anywhere and anytime. Even though systemic changes are progressing, mobility and energy production are still far from being CO₂-free. To meet climate protection goals, we need to exploit all available measures soon. One of these is compensation through emissions reduction projects – it gives CO₂ a price, helping to bring about change. However, this compensation is not meant to be a system for relieving our collective guilty conscience and continuing to generate CO₂ emissions unchecked.

The prerequisites for effective compensation therefore are to:

  • subject activities to scrutiny and avoid emissions whenever and wherever possible (replace a business trip with a video conference, for example)
  • reduce emissions (taking the train instead of driving);
  • fund unavoidable emissions through carbon credits.

Projects and CERs (carbon credits)

Which marks of quality must greenmiles emissions reduction projects possess?

Credibility is especially important to us. That’s why greenmiles accepts into its programme only those projects that adhere to the officially recognised validation and certification standards of the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) or that meet the criteria of the Gold Standard. The UN registers CDM projects, and in its capacity as the only official body for this function it issues Certified Emission Reductions (CERs), more simply known as carbon credits, each of which has a serial number. Carbon credits can be traded several times, but their sale to an end consumer for emissions reduction can be done only once. This is documented in national registers. As an example, when our clients offset emissions from a long-haul flight, we invalidate a CER with the corresponding amount of CO₂ in the register. In this way we can guarantee that the reduction in emissions due to a project is used only once for compensation. These projects are monitored at regular intervals by independent experts who authenticate the emission reductions.

A key criterion for these projects is their additionality, which means that such a project would not have been realised without funding from carbon credits.

Moreover, the TÜV NORD technical inspection agency verifies each year that we have invalidated carbon credits to comply with the emissions reduction clients have paid for. Our clients know that their funding of projects to mitigate climate change has truly made a difference.

How does greenmiles ensure that CO2 emissions are reduced?

Consistently high standards and the regular monitoring of our projects mean that our projects are guaranteed to run according to plan. Moreover, actual CO₂ emission reductions are calculated on a regular basis.

Which technologies and projects does greenmiles invest in?

greenmiles invests in projects that replace fossil fuels in power and heat generation or mobility. We also invest in projects that utilise energy more efficiently. All our projects comply with officially recognized validation and certification standards for the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

Check out our funded projects.

Offsetting CO₂ emissions with greenmiles

How does greenmiles calculate CO₂ emissions?

Our calculations are based on the German Federal Environment Agency’s current emissions factors. For events, we calculate CO₂ emissions individually.

Which emissions can I offset through greenmiles?

Through greenmiles you can compensate all activities or CO₂ emissions that don’t otherwise have to be part of emissions trading. To add up your individual emissions, we recommend that you use the Federal Environment Agency’s emissions calculator (http://uba.co2-rechner.de/de_DE/).

Why doesn’t greenmiles provide a CO₂ calculator for private clients?

As a private individual, you are welcome to offset your emissions through greenmiles. To add up emissions, we recommend that you use the Federal Environment Agency’s calculator (http://uba.co2-rechner.de/de_DE/).

Why does greenmiles calculate emissions in some sectors in a simple way and not distinguish between business and economy seats on flights, for example, or between hotels by the number of stars they have?

greenmiles wants offsetting to be as easy as possible. Our experience has shown that complicated calculations can lead to the termination of a compensation plan. So we take those factors into account for offsetting that have the greatest influence on the amount of emissions generated. For other factors that influence emissions – but which are comparatively insignificant – we use mean or buffer values. In this way we ensure that our calculation of CO₂ emissions tends to be too high rather than too low.

How do I get a receipt for my funding?

We send you an invoice for your financial contribution with value-added tax. Moreover, you receive a certificate with a unique identity number for the amount of CO₂ your payment has offset. It guarantees soundness for your business audit and sustainability report.

How can I give away greenmiles?

You can purchase vouchers at greenmiles – they are the right gift for any occasion. Taking action in this way makes a great impression on the recipient, while at the same time reminding people of the need to mitigate climate change. We have vouchers in varying amounts of miles (starting with 100 greenmiles). Each greenmile corresponds to one kilo of CO₂ emissions reduction in a recognised climate protection project. For example, you can distribute greenmiles to participants at a conference, showing them how they too can make individual contributions toward protecting the climate.