Carbon offset schemes damage environment says report

21 February 2007
In the media
Published at
mongabay.com
Existing carbon offset schemes are confusing and may be damaging the environment rather than helping fight climate change says a new report by the Transnational Institute, a Dutch pressure group that runs carbontradewatch.org. The report, titled "The Carbon Neutral Myth", compares existing carbon offsets to indulgences granted by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. "There are new indulgences on the market in the form of carbon offsets," states the report. "These wholesale emissions reductions can then be profitably sold back at retail prices to modern-day sinners who have money, but not necessarily the time or inclination to take responsibility for their emissions, and can afford to buy the surplus ‘good deeds’ from the offset companies." The report argues that most carbon offset programss don't actually reduce emissions, they just create money-making opportunities for "self styled eco-capitalists" while generating complacency among consumers who are not pressed to change their consumption patterns. "The Carbon Neutral Myth" examines how much money collected by offset companies actually goes into mitigation efforts and notes that the use of "Enron style accounting" practices by counting carbon savings expected to be made in the future as savings made in the present. It says that offset companies are making dubious claims about how fast emissions are offset, which can take hundreds of years, and that mechanisms used by such firms (like establishing tree plantations) may not actually neutralize carbon dioxide emissions. "The only effective way of dealing with climate change is to dramatically decrease our current rates of fossil fuel consumption," said Kevin Smith, author of the report. "Offsets are providing a justification to maintain our carbon-intensive lifestyles, and delaying the profound changes we need to make in our societies.’ Yesterday, Jutta Kill, an activist from the Forests and the European Union Resource Network (FERN), told the UK parliament Environmental Audit Committee that "Government proposals to regulate offset companies misleadingly give the impression that there are bad offsets and good offsets. The fact is that all offset projects are sanctioning further fossil fuel use, and in doing so are a dangerous distraction from tackling climate change."