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Carbon Offsetting: Fleeting fad or sustainable trend?

Richard Franklin of ECOsuperyacht says that while he passionately believes that carbon offsetting is an important step, he thinks that it should be supplemental to other efforts to reduce a yacht’s emissions.

‘Our philosophy is based on the premise that less-in equals less-out, both in terms of emissions and cash,’ he says. ‘A well-structured program to improve the energy efficiency of a yacht can reduce total energy consumption by up to 25 per cent, reducing total emissions by a similar amount.’

Franklin’s company offers an ECOSeas Programme, in consultation with Ward & McKenzie surveyors and naval architects BMT Nigel Gee, that measures a yacht’s energy consumption, advises owners on efficiency improvements and sets measurable targets to implement changes based on the yacht’s budget. This results in more palatable cost savings to an owner in addition to green credentials.

This past December, Canada dealt the struggling carbon market an additional blow by denouncing the Kyoto Protocol

Mark Robinson, founder, Yacht Carbon Offset

Charter companies that offer carbon offsets for their yacht charters show mixed emotions.

‘We have offered [carbon offsetting] for three years now and have had a slow take up,’ says Patrick Coote, global marketing director for Fraser Yachts. ‘[However,] owners are often very interested in green options when it comes to proactively designing and constructing a yacht – from non-polluting materials, machinery, wood from managed forests, ecologically sound waste disposal, fuel consumption, hull design, solar and wind energy, efficient heating and AC systems, etc…’

Chiara Remonti of brokerage house Y.CO agrees, citing that the wholly environmentally sound sailing yacht Ethereal offers carbon offsetting for its charters, but none of Y.CO’s other charter clients have elected to offer this option.

At Camper & Nicholsons International, which pioneered the movement, offsetting is still offered to its charter and new-build clients, but the company no longer offsets all of its own activities, a decision made during the economic downturn.

The carbon market’s fall

In the early years of the Kyoto Protocol, the carbon market was forecasted to become the world’s biggest commodity market.

In 2008, more than $700 million of carbon offsets were purchased on the voluntary market alone, representing about 120 million metric tons of greenhouse gas reductions. During that year the carbon market was estimated to be worth $118 billion.

A report from the World Bank last year showed a much bleaker image of this market, stating that only $1.5 billion credits were traded in 2010: the lowest since the market opened in 2005.

This past December, Canada dealt the struggling carbon market an additional blow by denouncing the Kyoto Protocol. Canadian Minister of the Environment Peter Kent said, citing that because the world’s two main emitters of greenhouse gas emissions – the US and China – were not covered by the agreement, it ‘is not the path forward to a global solution to climate change’.

With the first Kyoto Protocol set to expire this year and a new climate treaty looking to be in place by 2015, whether carbon offsetting will continue as established or be replaced by a new structure remains to be determined.

‘What is evident now,’ says Captain Doyle, ‘is that more brokers are asking their clients if they want to participate [in carbon offsetting.] This is a great move toward awareness in the industry as a whole and the beneficial impact [on] the environment.’

‘You don’t have to believe in global warming,’ says Robinson, ‘but you should take a stand on greenhouse emissions.’ This might end up being a mandatory requirement for some large vessels, with the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan set to go into effect 1 January 2013.

Despite what the future holds for carbon offset, the yachting industry has come a long way in terms of embracing environmental responsibility the last six years. A note from Richard Sauter, of Sauter Carbon Offset Design, says, ‘The post-carbon Ocean Supremacy is on the horizon. When she docks, yacht owners will see that ultra-green, no-compromise eco-luxury superyachts are a real alternative.’

Just have the cappuccino ready and the press will show up en masse for that announcement.

Originally published: May 2012.

Mark Sims

Raphael Montigneaux

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