BP targets green consumers with carbon-offset scheme for drivers

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BP will raise the stakes in the battle to be seen as the most environmentally friendly oil company today, launching a website which allows motorists to offset the carbon emissions from their car by donating money to the development of renewable energy sources.

The website - www.targetneutral.com - helps drivers to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide which their car emits each year, subsequently calculating how much they need to pay to neutralise the effects of their pollution.

The website will be not-for-profit, with all proceeds invested in a series of renewable energy projects across the globe.

BP says an average car, driven 10,000 miles a year, generates approximately four tonnes of carbon dioxide - enough to fill a hot air balloon. The cost of neutralising this on www.targetneutral.com would be about £20 a year. Although the scheme is open to all motorists, BP says it will make an additional contribution to scheme members who buy their petrol at BP stations and who use a Nectar card.

BP says the scheme has been developed in conjunction with a series of leading non-governmental organisations, and will be advised and monitored by an independent advisory and assurance panel chaired by Sir Jonathon Porritt, the founder of the sustainable development charity, Forum for the Future.

Peter Mather, the head of BP's UK operations, and a member of the advisory panel, said: "Targetneutral is a practical and straightforward step that BP is taking to enable drivers to help the environment. BP is taking the lead because our extensive research shows there is a huge consumer demand for such a scheme, but a general feeling from customers that they don't know where to start."

Sir Jonathon said: "The scientific consensus on climate change is overwhelming: we need to take radical action now if we are to avoid catastrophic consequences. We all have a responsibility to take up that challenge in our own lives, at home, work or as motorists. For this reason, Forum for the Future is very supportive of what BP is doing through targetneutral. The scheme should help raise awareness of the links between driving and climate change. Helping everyone get more 'carbon literate' is something all oil companies will need to commit to in the very near future."

Five projects will initially benefit from the scheme, including two in India - a biomass energy plant in Himachal Pradesh and a wind farm in Karnataka. Money will also go towards an animal waste management and methane-capture programme in Mexico.

The BP scheme is the latest in a string of carbon-offset projects to be launched in the UK but the first by a major oil company. BP is to provide all of the set-up funding for the company and will also pay any ongoing running costs.