The global carbon market is one of the ways many institutions have found to reduce carbon emissions. The goal of the carbon trading scheme is to encourage countries to meet their goals from the Paris Agreement. Carbon offsetting profits can help poorer regions invest in more environmentally friendly manufacturing, transport, construction, and energy measures. In addition, it’s also meant to encourage them to create more forest cover that can be used for carbon offsetting. Ideally, it sounds like a perfect solution to maintaining carbon neutrality. In reality, it’s causing great harm.
The problems with carbon offsetting
Carbon markets are also meant to incentivize developing countries to create more biodiverse areas and restore forests. Developed countries then invest in these areas to ensure that their carbon emissions are “offset” by the forests that they have invested in in the global South. However, there aren’t any clear frameworks to ensure that all deals are aboveboard.
1. Polluters become complacent
Corporations have set goals worldwide to be net zero by 2030 and carbon negative by 2050. To achieve neutrality, many of these companies don’t actively take steps to reduce emissions. They offset their emissions by relying on leased forests. The calculations done to ensure that the company is completely offsetting its emissions have to be accurate. However, it can’t be accomplished perfectly. There are no guarantees that polluters are completely nuetralising emissions. This also makes polluters lax in implementing steps to become carbon-negative.
2. It doesn’t protect the forests that matter
There are no clear rules regarding which forests should be used for carbon offsetting. A businessperson can establish a forest for timber harvesting and sign up for a carbon trading scheme. This prevents endangered forests from getting carbon revenue. Studies show that the oldest forests are one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon emissions. These are the forests that should be benefiting the most from carbon revenue. In addition, it’s better to use revenue to protect forests from being felled rather than letting businesspeople make an extra profit. The timber farm should use the carbon revenue to transition from something environmentally unfriendly to a maintained forest.
Carbon market traders also sell land that is already sequestered for forestry activities or protected reserves. They also recruit small farmers to use their land to sell carbon offsetting to multinationals. When companies plant new trees to offset carbon, it makes nearly no difference to negate carbon emissions. There aren’t enough trees to offset carbon emissions from flights. Airlines sell carbon credits to travellers to make them feel like their journey’s emissions will be negated. This makes no difference. Companies also continue to raid resources from old and vital forests which harms the environment more.
3. Encourages more pollution
Countries that have emission caps have companies that buy carbon credits or invest in carbon offsetting to show that they are still compliant with the rules. However, the carbon credits they purchase are for forests that would have been planted anyway and were already protected. This is dangerous because it doesn’t create extra forests or wind farms to offset the emissions. Increasing pollution levels lead to higher risks of wildfires, floods, storms, and heatwaves. The planet is getting closer each day to crossing the 1.5℃ benchmark. When companies continue to “legally” pollute because they’re in a carbon trading scheme, it exacerbates climate change.
4. Human rights violations
Many carbon offsetting projects worldwide have violated the fundamental human rights of vulnerable people. Carbon trading companies acquire land forcefully to create forests where they plant forests. Displacing people often end up uprooted from their homes, with their livelihoods and safety destroyed.
In Kenya, the government evicted the Ogiek people and demolished their homes to create land for carbon credits. Studies show that forests do better when managed by Indigenous communities. Relying on corporations to manage forests or plant new ones leads to people getting wrongfully evicted. Displacing Indigenous people is also a violation of the Paris Agreement.
In Chile, local communities in Santiago protested the Alto Maipo hydropower scheme which would have rerouted River Maipo for 100km. This would have affected water supply, food, and food production for the city. Research shows that Uganda was one of the first African markets to sign up for carbon trading. Since then, 20000 people have been expelled for carbon trading schemes.
Climate action can’t come at the expense of social justice. These climate schemes are supposed to help the people who currently inhabit the planet. When they predate the livelihoods of poor people, they no longer become about the environment but corporate greed. Real climate action that actively involves emissions reduction, protecting existing natural resources, and reducing consumption and production will ultimately help countries meet their environmental goals.
Opinion: Carbon Offsetting Is A Scam
How Climate Change Affects Our Daily Lives
Environment: 8 Ways You Can Fight Climate Change And Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
All You Need To Know About Various Types Of Greenhouses
Climate Change And The Environment: How Can You Eliminate Greenhouses Gases In Your Household?
Climate Smart Agriculture: How Farmers Can Increase Food Security And Combat Climate Change