The Pope says Hell Yeah you can. He’s the latest to see the wisdom in (or be swindled by, your choice) carbon offsetting as a way to absolve your CO2 sins.
A Hungarian company is going to re-forest 37 acres on behalf of the Vatican — for free; they’re banking on the publicity, so we’ll help out and mention that its name is Klimafa. They say this will offset ALL the Vatican’s emissions. That’s right, a whole country — okay, it’s really a ridiculously tiny anachronistic city-state, but it is technically a country — is now carbon-neutral. Hey Andorra, hey San Marino: if you don’t watch out, you’ll get beat by Luxembourg and Monaco. Now that would be embarrassing.
I find a number of things interesting about this:
- First of all, it underscores how small the Vatican is that it only takes 37 acres of trees to offset the whole country.
- But does it offset the whole country? They just OK’d all these offsets, but never thought to take into account their air travel, which is a big source of CO2 emissions. Normally it would be 2 or 3%, but the Vatican is a tiny place without any car traffic of its own and a lot of globe-trotting cardinals. So they may have missed as much as 10% of their emissions.
- But one must give at least some props: the ethic of offsetting is that you a) reduce energy use, b) switch to clean energy wherever you can, and c) offset the rest. And while we don’t think the Sistine Chapel ceiling has a super-high R-value, they did at least install solar panels. So these offsets are more than just a PR move.
- The simple concept of “climate forestry.” Planting, or rather designing, a forest for maximum carbon-sequestration benefit. Also, the idea of reforestation as a profit-center.
- The whole EU East-West dynamic, and how it plays into this. Industrialized western countries, pressured by their new carbon-trading scheme to emit less, start looking east to countries with idle farmland that’s been forced out of service by EU price protections. Carbon-producers with lots of cash now have potential carbon absorbers in the beleaguered former-Soviet countries to the east. With regulation and transparency, this could do a lot of good for struggling EU-freshman states.
- But the “green” mindset, in which people are reflexively aware of energy use, takes a while to sink in. The Vatican is still figuring it out as well: Also, they’re subsidizing cheap plane flights to holy sites around Italy — snubbing the inconvenience of that boring train ride. Mass transit supporters, say a Hail Mary. It looks like 37 acres won’t be enough for long.