Carbon offsetting has become big business, as the commercial giants use it to tackle their carbon footprint on the route to hitting net zero goals. But you only had to listen briefly to indigenous leaders at Cop26 to realise we cannot trade carbon as a commodity and offsetting to slow climate change and limit temperatures rises is under attack.

“Too many of these net-zero targets rely on carbon offsetting to avoid real emission cuts, providing a convenient smokescreen to hide climate inaction,” said Teresa Anderson, climate policy coordinator at ActionAid. “But growing demand for offsets will drive land grabs for new tree plantations. There isn’t enough available land on the planet to offset the pollution hiding in thousands of net-zero pledges, and too many hopes rest on long-shot technologies that will probably never work.”

Meanwhile, cities around the world are locked in a race to become the first to reach carbon neutral, and hundreds of businesses have committed to achieving net-zero by 2030 or earlier. Those serious about climate goals are turning to Science Based Targets (SBT) for guidance and tools to adjust business models to achieve net-zero status.

Teresa Anderson, climate policy coordinator, ActionAid

“Too many of these net-zero targets rely on carbon offsetting to avoid real emission cuts, providing a convenient smokescreen to hide climate inaction”


Teresa Anderson, climate policy coordinator, ActionAid

“The SBT Net-Zero Standard gives companies a clear blueprint on how to bring their net-zero plans in line with the science, which is non-negotiable in this decisive decade for climate action. Because we are running out of time,” says Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Professor in Earth System Science at the University of Potsdam

While the majority of reductions in greenhouse gases will need to be accomplished by a transformation in policy and industry, individual actions and behaviour change are vital to prevent further warming. Carbon offsetting should be regarded as a last resort available to offset those activities you cannot control or make changes to.

The EcoSki team made a considered decision on whether to attend the Snow Show in Birmingham, UK in the half term of October 2021. We committed to being the show’s Sustainability Partner and it became essential we offset any additional carbon footprint calculated by Neil Russel-Bates from Hilltop Sustainability, a carbon-management specialist who directed us to Gold Standard.

Established in 2003 by the World Wildlife Fund and other NGOs, Gold Standard is an international best practice standard for carbon emission reduction projects, delivered to foster sustainable development.

The biggest gains are to be had by train

As skiers, the biggest way of reducing the footprint of our ski holidays is the travel to the mountains. Traveling by train rather than flying or driving makes the biggest difference to the carbon footprint of a ski holiday.

Check out the Plane V Train Race to the French Alps video on YouTube to get a flavour of how and why — and see that taking the train can sometimes be less hassle, more comfortable and take the same amount of time as flying. Obviously this depends a lot on where in the UK you live and how many are travelling. Even driving (with a full car) has far less of an impact than flying.

A few of our favourite resources to help skiers make change

Ski Flight Free is an independent, not-for-profit campaign to encourage skiers to travel to the Alps without flying. The site is full of rich content to help skiers reduce CO2 emissions when they travel.

Ski for Trees is a wonderful initiative created by Pete Oswald with the goal of mitigating climate change and saving our icy mountain playgrounds by planting trees and drive permanent reforestation in developing countries to help lift locals out of extreme poverty. Read more about Pete Oswald and his ski for trees initiatives.

Other interest projects include the Wildlife Trusts and Protect Our Winters . EcoSki supports both these charities through their partnership with 1% for the Planet.

Finally, an ingenious little app to download is  GikiZero – a step-by-step guide to reducing your footprint and tracking your carbon consumption.

Offsetting schemes have proliferated in recent years, and there is certainly a place for them in our climate-change battle; but offsetting should be preserved to balance out the actions we can’t control.  Let’s keep asking ourselves what we actually need to do, can we do it differently; better; before signing up to plant hundreds of trees on land that is a precious resource.

The conclusion?

Common behavioural change is vital, together with industry and government policy, to reduce our carbon footprint and limit climate temperature rises to 1.5 degrees. If we can set new standards of behaviour and accept our responsibility, there is room to enjoy our outdoor world in a responsible way that leaves the mountains accessible for our grandchildren and beyond.