Buy CO2 emission permits yourself!

Carbonkiller: Qu’est-ce que c’est?

Fact Check 3 min. Clemens van Diek

Questions about social issues? Our experts are happy to answer them. We received the following question: What can you do to reduce your own emissions of CO2, the biggest villain in the story of global warming. And is it true that you can also buy emission allowances yourself? Tip from Professor of Environmental Economics Reyer Gerlagh: Yes, you can, for example via Carbonkiller!

Less, less, less

Stop flying, stop driving, stop eating meat and use less electricity. That’s all very well, but we’re not just going give up on everything. In part, perhaps. We want to be mobile, we want to travel, meet other cultures, countries, people. So what can we do? We can use alternatives, of course, use our bicycle instead of the car, take fewer holidays abroad, avoid meat for a few days, plant a tree, or screw some solar panels to the roof. Do it!

Flight shame

Our passion for flying is growing, but there’s a new phrase for our awkward relationship to it: ‘flight shame’. We should, indeed, be ashamed that we fly to exotic destinations several times a year, contributing to a highly pollutant air travel industry. A 2-person, 2-week trip to San Francisco generates 5,600kg of CO2. For the sake of comparison, the annual emission generated by the energy use of an average Dutch household is 4,160kg of CO2.


CO2 compensation

Did you know that you can compensate for (or ‘offset’) your CO2 footprint? You can do this by planting trees, having them planted for you, or by buying CO2 emission permits, for instance through Carbonkiller, which destroys these permits once you’ve bought them. That amount of CO2 can then no longer be ‘paid for’ and legally emitted by industry.


This means that as a private consumer you can make a real difference, by buying up emission permits that would otherwise expand the CO2 emission space of superpolluters.

Carbonkiller: “As a society we have to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions towards zero as fast as possible. In the meantime we can compensate for our emissions. There are different forms of CO2 compensation, but there’s only one that makes a real difference: taking CO2 emission permits out of the European Emissions Trading System (ETS). That’s just what Carbonkiller does.”

Tip: don’t fly to three short holiday destinations a year; fly to one for longer

But there’s a catch

Unfortunately there’s a catch… Tilburg environmental economists Reyer Gerlagh and Roweno Heijmans have discovered that the CO2 emission permit market can be manipulated. They recently published their findings in the influential scientific journal Nature Climate Change. During their research they also discovered a ‘green paradox’: in acting to reduce emissions you get more! This was never the intention, obviously, and they have therefore presented evidence of this ‘carbon system leak’ to the Dutch Emissions Authority (NEa).

For more on the Emissions Trading System, Carbonkiller, and this leak, read ‘Manipulation of the CO2 emissions system threatens climate targets'.

Date of publication: 28 August 2019