One may argue that it's better than nothing, but honestly I don't really think anyone actually believes that by trading your reduced emissions to others who just continue polluting is any solution to the rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere and consequently global warming. It also does not really invoke any serious behavioral change for businesses and societies since it's trying to make them do as little as possible just to keep on going the way they were.
I think Cap and Trade movie by Annie is a wonderful tool to put out the issue in a simplistic way.
Of course, ETS is not the only tool to reduce emissions- there are also tools like clean development technologies, which should take larger proportion of our policies than just carbon offsetting. Even true and honest Carbon offsetting in any way is no long term solution- at the base line you just pay for the rights to emit carbon anyway instead of reducing your emissions. Of course, it is good to invest in reforestation, clean technologies, energy efficiency etc. to help absorb CO2 we emit. However, it should only be accompanied with serous reduction of GHGs emissions instead of using those investments as a pardon and holding to your quota.
I was recently blamed for having too pessimistic thoughts on ETS. I do admit that there are several positive aspects of the system as well. At the end of the day- for now it is the only binding system that makes us reduce the emissions. And there's another additional positive trend here. I should mention Latvia's case then. Through the Financial instruments provided from ETS there have been many educational and informative projects on Climate Change, and many more practical ones like home insulation. And these practical, touchable changes in the daily lives with the help of such instruments have lead many people to think about the Climate issues, about the environment. And that is very, very important!
It is just that the system we have has way too many loopholes, it really needs to be improved to be considered a way to limit the Climate Change. Unfortunately at the moment it hasn't gone through improvement stage yet. We could hardly manage to get an agreement on Kyoto protocol second term. But we must get further than that and pledge to stop emitting much more!
Enjoy watching and think of how to reduce emissions instead of just paying them off! I'll think of my own too and will share it with others. One person's emissions might not be large in comparison to the total human caused GHGs emissions. But all together we can change the marketplace, businesses, home environments and in the end- planet's emissions. Every willing person counts. The more there are those, who care, who choose right and who requires strong action, the better chance we stand in not falling over the tipping point.