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What is carbon trading?

Carbon trading is the process of buying and selling permits and credits to emit carbon dioxide. It has been a central pillar of the EU’s efforts to slow climate change. The world’s biggest carbon trading system is the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). It is beset with problems and corruption and yet countries such as Brazil and China continue to pursue carbon trading as a way to tackle rising emissions.

Carbon trading is increasingly criticised, not least because carbon dioxide emissions in industrialised countries are not declining at the necessary rate to avert catastrophic climate change.

For more information about carbon trading, see Fern’s beginners guide Trading Carbon. How it works and why it's controversial, or the 20 page version 20 page version Designed to fail.

Fern and many scientists, economists and NGOs believe that carbon trading is a dangerous distraction from the need to end fossil fuel use and move to a low carbon future. We do not have time to wait for a high price on carbon: we must shift to a low carbon energy, agriculture, transport and industrial world now. The best way to do this is through direct regulation.

Fern’s initial interest in carbon trading came about because trees were seen as a way of offsetting carbon cheaply, while simultaneously providing money to protect trees. What are offsets explains why you can never offset carbon by protecting or planting trees. There is also no evidence that carbon trading has lived up to the promise of providing money.

Despite the flaws inherent in pollution trading, the concept continues to appear in proposals to reduce environmental harm. For more information visit our campaign on biodiversity offsetting.

Campaigns: 

Most recent publications

Improving forest governance in Laos

In 2012, the Lao government expressed interest in negotiating a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union to address illegal logging trade and to improve forest governance.

How UN aviation deal is cheating the climate

 

Today airlines are plotting a deal that would undermine our ability to tackle climate change. Tell ICAO - International Civil Aviation Organization their plan must REDUCE emissions.

 

Aviation sector threatens to undermine Paris Agreement

This press release explains why the aviation sector’s plan for tackling its greenhouse gas emissions would have disastrous consequences for the climate.

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PDF iconPRESS STATEMENT ICAO.pdf477.83 KB

Will carbon markets ever deliver for southern government, forests and people?

This statement, endorsed by 57 prominent human rights and environmental organisations from Europe, Africa, Asia,and North America, argues that carbon markets will never deliver for southern governments, forests or people.

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PDF iconWill carbon markets deliver?931.71 KB

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