Giving with one hand

 The act of sending any person to person mail or parcels through NZ Post is now carbon neutral. 

That's good to hear. NZ Post is doing many things to reduce its carbon footprint and is to be commended on that.

But (you knew that was coming didn't you?) whilst a lot is being done actually to reduce the amount of CO2 being emitted as a result of sending mail and parcels, there are  a certain amount of 'unavoidable' emissions and these must be dealt with.

This is done with carbon offsetting. Companies can purchase carbon credits to offset their carbon emitted. In fact NZ Post go as far as to claim on their website that these credits 'cancel' their emissions. Great news - the negative impact of NZ Post's mail and parcel sending activities are being cancelled.

Except that they're not are they? Not really. I can purchase a carbon credit which will entitle me to release a tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere and then claim that it never happened.

Carbon credits are created by investment in environmental projects around the world which aim to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the air - that's good. Then the credit is used to offset greenhouse gases which are released into the air by someone else - back to square one: The land producing the carbon credit has, itself, effectively been cancelled.

Now I haven't done the calculations but with CO2 emissions on a steady rise across the globe, are there enough environmentally beneficial projects in existence to offset all of it? Could there be even if all the available land was used? Even if there could be, it would still be a fundamentally flawed system.

If you are doing something beneficial for the planet and I am doing something bad for the planet, by what authority do I appropriate your actions and claim that they cancel mine? By paying for it - I hear you say. Big deal I say. Any person with an eye for the future should be doing all they can to preserve, conserve, and protect our planet anyway, without expecting the spinoff of being able to duck out of their responsibilities in an entirely separate arena. Apart from that, some of the credits being purchased on the global market are decidedly dodgy in theselves; ask a member of Kenya's indigenous Sengwer people, 15,000 of whom have been forcibly displaced from their ancestral lands (a move which has been described as a genocidal land grab) to make way for, amongst other things, green initiatives on behalf of which carbon credits are being sold internationally.

So, when you send a letter from your local post office, where you'll probably see a poster of an NZ Post staff member hugging a tree, spare a thought for the person, tree, insect,  flower, bird, or animal which may well have been cancelled elsewhere.

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