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The Carbon Lottery – a good gamble?

We’ve covered generating carbon offsets from condoms, culling camels for credits and now we’re introducing a new novelty offset mechanism – the Carbon Lottery

So how does it work? It works in a similar way to the UK national lottery: you pay £2 and chose six numbers to enter the monthly prize draw which has a jackpot of €400,000. 

A portion of the money you pay is used to buy credits from carbon offset projects around the world including wind farms in Turkey and India, geothermal power stations in Guatemala and methane capture and electricity generation facilities in Thailand. 

The idea is that for just a £2 ticket, you can help tackle climate change and stand a chance to win millions of Euros. By purchasing 102 tickets, players can offset the average annual carbon footprint of a UK resident. 

The Carbon Lottery is a bit of fun and has the potential to engage new audiences in mitigating climate change. It’s a nice idea in principle but there are still big concerns about the additionality (i.e. the extent to which these projects reduce emissions beyond business as usual) and social impact of such projects. 

The standard of the offset projects benefitting from the carbon lottery are a mixture of Gold Standard and VCS. Whilst the Gold Standard is accountable for social impacts the VCS standard is not. It’s great that the carbon lottery has chosen to support some Gold Standard projects, but unfortunately as a player you do not have the power to choose just to support Gold Standard projects. 

In terms of pure emission reduction, however, it’s not great value for money. It’s not clear how much of the £2 ticket goes towards the offset projects – the site says it’s the equivalent of a ’200 mile trip’ but doesn’t state in what kind of vehicle. 

The Carbon Lottery say you would need to spend £20 on carbon lottery tickets to offset a tonne of carbon, which is more expensive than buying and cancelling an EU Allowance (or EU pollution permit) through Carbon Retirement – which is 100% guaranteed to create a one tonne reduction in emissions. 

Thinking about whether the Carbon Lottery provides a more ethical alternative to the UK national lottery, let’s not forget that the UK national lottery works in a similar way and has funded numerous social and environmental projects here in the UK raising over £26bn

28p in every £1 spent on a UK national lottery ticket goes to good causes. 

Our research shows that when buying a normal project-generated offset only 28p in every £1 reaches the emission reduction projects funded, so it is likely that with the lottery mechanism included a much lower proportion of money will go towards projects supported by The Carbon Lottery.  

Our advice for now? Keep your offsetting and your lottery playing separate.

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What people say

  • "This might just be the world's first truly ethical offseting scheme."

    John Grant, Author of The Green Marketing Manifesto
  • "I have never been a fan of carbon offsetting but Carbon Retirement is different"

    Richard Ellis, Group Head of CSR Alliance Boots
  • "I have long thought European Allowances were the best alternative to offsets"

    Joseph Romm, Former environment advisor to Bill Clinton
  • "Carbon Retirement is an innovative idea that has clear differentiation in the market"

    Jo Hill, Unltd.
  • “We benefit from Carbon Retirement's innovative and responsible approach to carbon offsetting.”

    Adam Black, Head of Sustainability Doughty Hanson

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