Instead, those wanting to go green should aim to reduce their emissions before considering the introduction of a scheme to offset the damage they do to the environment through tree planting schemes. The advice comes as the government unveils plans to clamp down on fraudsters cashing in on the green ambitions of fleets.
A firm’s emissions are calculated by a carbon offsetting provider and then paid for through a donation to a project that reduces carbon by the equivalent amount.
Such schemes could include installing energy saving devices in houses, renewable energy schemes such as wind farms, or tree-planting schemes that can take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Many schemes are poorly run and offset barely any emissions.
Rogue companies could face prison sentences of up to two years and fines of up to £5,000 under proposals outlined by environment secretary David Miliband.
A number of surveys have revealed that going green is a major priority for many fleets this year, but Miliband said it was important that such companies had assurances their money is spent on projects that have genuine carbon dioxide emission reductions.
To ensure this happens, the government plans to regulate the carbon offset market and by the end of the year hopes to develop a definable standard so that businesses have confidence in who they choose to handle their scheme.
Offsetters can also apply to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to use a logo that guarantees all of its schemes can be fully audited.
The not-for-profit, government funded Energy Saving Trust (EST) said fleets should see where they can reduce emissions in the first place. It can offer English fleets with more than 50 vehicles or Scottish fleets with more than 20 vehicles a free green fleet review.
EST head of transport Nigel Underdown said: ‘Carbon offsetting schemes are becoming increasingly popular with many companies as a method of reducing their fleet’s carbon footprint.
‘However, the EST strongly urges companies to look at methods of reducing their fleet’s emissions in the first instance, to minimise its carbon footprint, and then to turn to methods of off-setting the remaining carbon.’
His comments were echoed by Masterlease sales and marketing director, Clive Forsythe, who said fleets should also be wary of schemes that do not look to cut emissions in the first place.
He said: ‘Some pollution is unavoidable and carbon offsetting schemes have an important role to play in compensating for that, but we all need to find ways to reduce our vehicles’ impact on the environment.’
Emissions experts Greenstone Carbon Management said the government’s standard was ‘missing the point’ and that measuring, balancing and reducing CO2 should be a top priority for companies. Green campaigners are sceptical of the government move and say such schemes are not the answer for tackling climate change.
Miliband said: ‘Offsetting isn’t the answer to climate change. The first step should always be to see how we can avoid and reduce emissions. However, some emissions can’t or won’t be avoided. That’s where offsetting has a role to play.’
Top tips for going green:
1. Promote cars with low CO2 emissions to reduce employee car tax and National Insurance.
2. Evaluate alternative fuel cars to see if they might benefit your fleet.
3. Ensure vehicles are regularly serviced - poorly maintained vehicles have higher toxic emissions and fuel consumption.
4. Identify opportunities to reduce mileage by recording and analysing business travel.
5. Record and analyse individual fuel consumption to encourage fuel efficient driving.
6. Promote safe, economic and environmentally friendly driver training.
7. Ensure mileage reimbursement rates are environmentally sensitive and do not encourage drivers to make excessive journeys.
8. Provide access to web sites and route planners to minimise vehicle mileage.
9. Promote satellite navigation and telematics to help drivers avoid congestion and use the most efficient route to reach their destination.
10 Review arrangements for tele/video conferencing as an alternative to business travel.