Points on carbon off-setting from Kevin Smith of London Rising Tide;
• Offset companies are selling a “peace of mind” to consumers where none should exist. This breeds complacency.
• Some of the most polluting companies (and politicians) are using offsets as a cheap form of greenwash – a distraction from their inherently unsustainable practices and a refusal to take more serious action on climate change.
• Creative accountancy and dubious scientific methodologies are often used to inflate profit margins.
• Our knowledge of the carbon cycle is so limited that it is impossible to say whether tree plantations even have even a net positive benefit in terms of mitigating climate change, let alone exactly quantifying this supposed benefit into a saleable commodity.
• It is impossible to determine the baseline of what would have happened if the project had not taken place that would enable calculations of how many credits could be generated.
• Projects that look great on the website or in the leaflet are often, in practice, mismanaged, ineffective or detrimental to the local communities who have to endure them.
• The media and certain celebrities have been complicit in promoting an analysis of climate change that puts all the focus on individual lifestyles and draws attention from the wider, systemic changes that need to be made in our societies and economies.
The act of commodification at the heart of offset schemes assigns a financial value to people’s desire to act on climate action, and neatly transforms this potential into another market transaction.
There is then no urgent need for people to question the underlying social and economic structures that brought about climate change in the first place – one has just to click and pay the assigned price to get ‘experts’ to take action on your behalf.
Not only is it ineffective and based on half-baked ‘guessing games’ and dubious science, it is also very disempowering for the participants.
‘The methodology for verifying Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) projects under Kyoto has been beset with numerous allegations of corruption, project mismanagement, lack of verifiable reductions and negative impacts on local communities.
Some chemical factories in China have been generating hundreds of millions of Euros in CDM credits by installing cheap equipment that stops the generation of a potent green house gas called HFC-23. In a report in the January 2007 issue of Nature magazine, it is estimated that it would have cost 100 million euros to make these changes by simply regulating via an international body. Instead 4.6 billion euros has been spent on purchasing credits generated by the CDM projects. This Kyoto-generated money could have been invested in renewable energy projects.’ Carbontradewatch.org(pdf pg.55)
It’s a murky old world this carbon off-setting game.