It is becoming increasingly popular among companies, organizations and individuals to offset their carbon emissions from (for instance) air travel, car trips or energy use, by purchasing carbon credits from a carbon offsetting company. Climate compensate is the possibility of exchanging or trading “human made assets” (= manmade means of production) against “natural resources” (= natural resources and auxiliary materials). Concretely, this means that a loss of natural resources and auxiliary materials, such as natural gas or ecosystems, can be compensated by an increase in technological knowledge or investment goods for example.

On the other hand, it is controversial, because a loss of clean air can by definition never be compensated by technological progress, or more capital goods. The loss of mineral resources can by definition not be compensated, although some claim it can be compensated by creating social (e.g. building educational facilities) and economic (e.g. innovative technologies) value. This is very much a matter of dispute; some will support this view, while others will sharply contest it. Naturally, the impact on the environment can also be compensated by a decrease in population and / or a decrease in prosperity, but these scenarios encounter (serious) moral objections and dilemmas.

The increase of nuclear energy and consumption of fossil fuels are mainly caused by a soaring production (GDP); production volume is estimated to increase by almost 160 percent in the 2000 – 2030 period. On the other hand, most of the resources are being used more efficiently, and CO2 emissions per unit of product are decreasing. Unfortunately, the rise in resource efficiency is not enough to compensate the production volume increase, implying that in absolute terms resource use is projected to increase in the 2000-2030 period.

This is not to say that carbon offset projects should stop, quite the opposite. We must continue to plant trees and protect forests and peatlands. Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects are critical and offset schemes play an important role in funding and upscaling them. Even if the process is slow, we should always strive for the better.

The projects that offset schemes support are vital: trees must be planted, existing forests and peatlands that hold and absorb carbon must be protected. Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects are critical and offset schemes can have a part to play in delivering sufficient funding and mechanisms at pace and scale.

However, the problems and challenges we are facing are too great to be left to visionaries and cross-thinkers alone; more movements must be started involving and engaging everyone who can and wants to contribute. A prominent role is to be played by the educational sector, in particular vocational education and universities, because today’s students are tomorrow’s employees and managers.

However, this requires that sufficient scope for experimentation is created in educational facilities within or outside of existing curricula. Education must become a breeding ground and playground for new ideas to a greater extent than it currently is, with social problems forming the input for new business opportunities.