The Commission is poised to support carbon-offsetting despite new evidence of its flaws

2 February 2023

The Commission is poised to support carbon-offsetting despite new evidence of its flaws

Just as new in-depth research confirms NGO warnings that carbon offsetting is an exercise in futility, a recent Commission ‘carbon removal certification’ proposal endorses offsetting. The proposal is backed by polluting industries that pour billions into carbon credits that are little more than an accounting game, when they could be pouring billions into reducing emissions.

A nine-month investigation by The Guardian, the German weekly Die Zeit and SourceMaterial, an investigative journalism non-profit, reveals that “forest carbon offsets approved by the world’s leading provider and used by Disney, Shell, Gucci and other big corporations are largely worthless and could make global heating worse”.

Their research focuses on Verra, which approves three-quarters of the two-billion-dollar-and-growing voluntary offsets market. The study concludes that “more than 90 per cent of their rainforest offset credits – among the most commonly used by companies – are likely to be ‘phantom credits’ and do not represent genuine carbon reductions.”

The broad-based investigation underscores why NGOs have cautioned against offsets of all types, loudly and consistently, for decades. The notion of paying someone else to compensate the emissions that you fail to reduce is dubious, even before considering the displacement of communities, hyper-valuation of projects and absence of scientific carbon-accounting methods that too often accompany such projects.

Guardian journalists visited Peruvian communities near an “exemplary” Verra project, and found that communities had been expelled from their homes by park authorities. With regard to one ‘avoided deforestation’ project, Verra overstated the risk by 400 per cent to artificially increase credits; the project “claimed to cover forests the size of Italy ... they protected an area about the size of Venice.”

Yet the Commission seems prepared to allow the carbon-offsetting charade to continue in its new voluntary carbon removal certification proposal, which already contains a spectrum of problematic aspects (FW 281). This comes as no surprise: Many enterprises – with fossil fuel companies such as Shell at the forefront – cheerlead for the continued possibility to rely on carbon credits rather than reduce emissions, as illustrated by a recent event on the new law.

Understandably, frustrated citizens are increasingly taking authorities to court for failing to take serious climate action. With regard to offsetting, the Commission and Member States cannot claim not to know, and as the global climate lurches towards tipping points, should not wilfully ignore the consistent failure of carbon markets to deliver carbon reductions. To claw back any hope of limiting global heating to 1.5°C, they must turn their back on this failed market, not prop it up.

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Categories: Forest Watch, Carbon trading

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