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12/07/2015 | Pressemitteilung

Research group: Great potential for climate protection through voluntary CO2 offsets

Many citizens are making voluntary contributions to protect the climate. A group of researchers led by Kassel-based economist Prof. Dr. Andreas Ziegler sees great potential in compensation payments for CO2 emissions generated by air travel, for example, which are used for reforestation programs, among other things. Although around 50 percent of Germans consider such measures to be effective in protecting the climate, only around one in ten have already used these options.

Shortly before the conclusion of the climate negotiations in Paris, Ziegler, Head of the Department of Empirical Economic Research at the University of Kassel, emphasizes the role of citizens: "No matter what the outcome in Paris, the agreed climate protection targets must then be implemented. In addition to regulatory measures, so-called voluntary compensation of the population forCO2 emissions can make an important contribution." Together with Dr. Claudia Schwirplies, a researcher at the University of Hamburg, Ziegler coordinated the "VolFair" research project, which empirically investigated the willingness of people in Germany and other countries to engage in voluntary climate protection activities until October 2015.

According to figures collected as part of VolFair, just under one-third of Americans and Germans are prepared to make voluntary offsetting payments in principle. However, only about one in ten Americans and Germans have ever made such payments. Schwirplies also attributes this to a great deal of uncertainty and ignorance about the possibility and actual effectiveness of such measures. "To establishCO2 offsets as a climate protection measure, it makes sense to provide more information about their mechanism and environmental impact," Schwirplies emphasizes.

In the VolFair project, particular attention was paid to questions about the motivation, type and scope of offset payments, the role of providers and the interrelationship with other climate-friendly measures. Selected results were presented at the project's final workshop in Berlin on November 10 and discussed with numerous representatives from politics and practice. One finding: offsets that involve lower payments (e.g., for bus travel) seem to have a significantly higher potential among the population than offsets for a high amount ofCO2 emissions(e.g., for longer air travel).

In addition, the project work indicates that compensation payments generally do not encourage people to be more careless about the climate. People who already make such offsets also behave in a climate-friendly way in other areas of their lives. "This means that these compensation payments effectively contribute to climate protection," Ziegler emphasizes. "The frequently expressed reservation that this is a trade in indulgences to justify additionalCO2 emissions is not true."

The VolFair project, coordinated by the University of Kassel, ran from March 2012 to October 2015 and was part of the "Economics of Climate Change" funding priority initiated by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). In addition to the University of Hamburg, the cooperation partners included the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) Karlsruhe and the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) Mannheim.

Prof. Ziegler is available for further inquiries.


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Prof. Dr. Andreas Ziegler
University of Kassel
Department of Empirical Economic Research
Department of Economics
Phone: 0561/804-3038
E-mail: andreas.ziegler[at]uni-kassel[dot]de