Conference: Carbon offsets and sustainable consumption: a good match?


Every consumer decision affects the environment. The consumption of private households is responsible for more than one third of the total greenhouse gas emissions in Germany. By making conscious consumption decisions, consumers can reduce negative environmental impacts: Responsible consumption is an important lever to achieve environmental and sustainability goals.

Developing patterns of sustainable consumption is a long-term task and will take generations. It can only be successful if it comes from within society and if all societal stakeholders actors play an active role.

Voluntary carbon offsetting can be regarded as one instrument to neutralise climate impacts. More and more people want to offset the climate damaging greenhouse gases they emit.

A study by adelphi/sustainable 2014 revealed that environmental and climate protection is the most important reason for consumers to offset their emissions. And often they prefer offset standards with strict sustainability criteria that ensure positive social, economic and ecological impacts, rather than those focusing only on emission balances. But are offsetting measures and sustainable life styles really compatible? Or do the former, as some insinuate, rather serve to justify a non-sustainable life style?

The German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) organised a conference on 10 November 2014 addressing exactly this nexus between voluntary carbon offsets and sustainable life styles and whether it provides complementarities and synergies or whether the two concepts are incompatible with one another. adelphi supported the conference with the following services:

  • Targeted input for the conference to feed into the discussion regarding the compatibility of sustainable consumption and voluntary carbon offsets.
  • A summary and a journal article building on the conference inputs and discussions capture the findings, make them accessible for the public and spread them widely to provide impetus for sustainable consumption.
  • adelphi had an active role during the conference, particularly by providing input with regard to relevant results of the market analysis of voluntary carbon offsetting in Germany. In addition, it supported the conference in organisational matters.

Publications of this project