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Carbon Offsetting: Fleeting fad or sustainable trend?

In 2008, Mark Robinson, a financial analyst tasked with evaluating green energy projects, switched gears and industries to create what is now the yachting industry’s most well-known carbon offset program: the aptly named Yacht Carbon Offset.

Robinson is quick to stress one point, and that is about a lifestyle change. ‘If you’re operating a superyacht, you’re not trying to save the planet,’ he says. ‘Carbon offsetting is about changing our lifestyle.’

Robinson knows that this message does not sit comfortably with superyachting, but he also recognizes that more boats, owners and businesses are adopting methods to be more efficient in every area.

If you’re operating a superyacht, you’re not trying to save the planet. Carbon offsetting is about changing our lifestyle.

Mark Robinson, founder, Yacht Carbon Offset

Yacht Carbon Offset’s process is as straightforward as any other offset program: a yacht or business uses an online carbon emissions calculator to estimate the amount of emissions generated by a pre-determined activity, such as a week-long charter, a specific event, a year’s worth of cruising or business travel, etc.

Credits for the calculated emissions are then purchased at the current exchange value for one metric ton of carbon and remitted to any of the vetted renewable projects in Yacht Carbon Offset’s portfolio.

With a cost ranging from $7 to $11 per metric ton emitted on the UN compliance market, to $2 to $16 on the voluntary markets, offsets certainly may be cheaper and more convenient alternatives to reducing one’s own fossil fuel consumption, but if you don’t do your homework, you might as well have paid to breathe air.

You should ensure that the project you are funding would not otherwise be operational without the funding from your carbon offset programs. Some projects have negative side effects – like a wind farm project in India that upended tribal farmers and their livelihoods – while some noble causes end up not even getting off the ground. In fact, the Vatican itself was duped by crediting its carbon neutrality to a Hungarian tree forest project that never planted a single tree.

What Yacht Carbon Offset offers to yachts, owners and the industry is ‘credited and properly documented action that is just one part of a yacht or business’s overall environmental action plan’. Each carbon credit purchased through the program is audited with the Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance services. And, compared to the annual running costs of a large boat, the cost of carbon offsetting is modest, says Robinson, using an example of a 61m boat burning roughly 250,000 gallons of fuel annually.

‘It would cost less than $40,000 per year to fully offset,’ he says. ‘It is real money, but not prohibitive.’

Captain Nick Doyle of the 61.5m motor yacht Solemar, a participant in the program, says the impact of carbon offsetting on a daily basis is barely noticeable, but the contributions pay dividends to those projects being funded.

‘Everybody always feels better if they feel they are making a difference,’ he says, ‘no matter how small it is.’

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