Resolution 2: Carbon Offsets


Resolved, That the 170th Convention of the Diocese of California encourages all Episcopalians to learn about their carbon footprint and the impact of air travel on that footprint;

Resolved, That this Convention exhorts all Episcopalians to limit their air travel to the greatest extent possible, and when air travel is necessary, to offset their emissions through the purchase of carbon offsets; and

Resolved, That this Convention directs the Diocese and its congregations and institutions to purchase offsets when air travel is deemed necessary for the conduct of church business.


Air travel has a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions.  At current growth rates, global aviation emissions will swamp the Paris Agreement global emissions budget, intended to keep the planet from warming more than 2˚C, by mid-century.  There are factors beyond CO2—soot, nitrous oxide, and sulfur dioxide are emitted, and gases released at higher altitude have a larger impact on global warming.

Offsets are effective.  Offsets work by directing funds from those who seek to reduce their emissions to projects that sequester greenhouse gases, from tree-planting efforts to dairy-farm methane digesters.  Current offset projects and brokers are certified by one of several domestic or international agencies.  A recent Stanford study found that in 2015 reforestation projects funded under California’s cap & trade law sequestered over 4.7 million tons of CO2 that would not have been removed without the program.

Offsets can be an appropriate part of efforts to reduce transportation-related emissions.  Carbon offsets are not a panacea.  Compelling arguments have been made that offsetting air travel merely supports a wasteful and earth-destroying industry.    Carbon offsets should be purchased as part of a thoughtful effort to reduce overall air travel emissions, including more efficient travel by car (ideally an EV) or train when possible, or digital communications (videoconferencing, webinars) as a substitute for business travel.  The goal of this resolution is that if, after careful consideration, there is no alternative to air travel, then climate-conscious Episcopalians will purchase offsets.

Voluntary offset purchases are important.  In 2021, international carriers will be required to phase in offset purchases to cover the emissions of their flights.  But three-quarters of flights by U.S. travelers are domestic, and there are no current commitments by U.S. carriers to include the price of offsets in their domestic fares.

Offsets are an appropriate, small cost for air travelers to bear.  Offsetting a metric ton of CO2, approximately the amount generated by a single passenger flying round trip in economy class from New York to Paris, costs about $15.  Offsets typically are about 2% of the cost of a ticket.  As Connie Hedegaard, former European commissioner for climate action, has said, “We believe that those of us who can afford to pay for an air ticket can also afford to pay for the pollution from their travel.”

Submitted by:  The Commission on Creation Care of the Diocese of California; Contact: Nancy Grove,


Please consider language and context. It's one thing to require Baptism, it's another to compel travel restrictions, as we are not Amish.

Thanks for your comment. The intent was to make an ascending level of obligation and commitment. The first "resolved" is that people should know what their carbon emissions are and where they could have the greatest impact--that is sort of a baseline. The second is strong encouragement that individuals (not the church structure) should buy offsets when they have considered other alternatives and must fly. Clearly the Diocese's control over what people actually do is limited to moral persuasion. But on the third level (third resolved) it seemed to the Commission more compelling to create some sort of language that says, when people within the Diocese travel on church business, it's the policy of the Diocese that they buy offsets. There's no enforcement mechanism, but I think of it as more an administrative policy grounded in our collective need to care for creation. I don't think there's a direct comparison to the sacrament of Baptism. If you disagree, it would be helpful to know exactly how you'd suggest rewording the resolved statements.

In hopes of starting a dialog ahead of Convention, the primary author has posted a set of FAQ's reachable through this link:
Please write back with comments, questions, concerns. Thanks!

Dear Nancy:

Thank you to the Commission on Creation Care (CCC) for offering this legislation I see references to "the primary author" and in hopes of starting a dialogue. Will this person be available at convention to field Q & A's or will CCC just be presenting the legislation? Thank you.

Dear Warren:
Yes, I am the primary author and will be there.

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