Home » 80+ Organisations Say Carbon Offsetting Undermines Climate Targets

80+ Organisations Say Carbon Offsetting Undermines Climate Targets

by Madaline Dunn

In a joint statement, over 80 civil society organisations have outlined their opposition to the use of carbon credits for offsetting purposes, arguing it could delay climate action.

In the statement, the organisations—which include the likes of ClientEarth, Changing Markets Foundation, Global Witness, Greenpeace, Climate Action Network Arab World and others—outline their concern around the “renewed efforts” to promote carbon offsetting.

The statement follows a recent controversial public statement from the climate-certification organisation Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi).

In April, the global non-profit’s Board of Trustees outlined a proposal to allow the use of carbon credits to offset emissions.

Responses to the carbon offsetting statement were varied. Some hailed it a positive move. Anna Lerner Nesbitt, Climate Collective CEO, for example, argued the world is running out of time and needs “all the solutions.”

Adding: “Carbon markets have spent the last two years strengthening process integrity, and a myriad of new technologies and providers are shoring up data integrity.”

However, many others disagreed. Carbon Market Watch Executive Director Sabine Frank said the decision defied “both good governance and science.”

Meanwhile, a letter from SBTi staff to management, seen by the Guardian, said: “We stand ready to support any efforts aimed at ensuring that the SBTi does not become a greenwashing platform where decisions are unduly influenced by lobbyists, driven by potential conflicts of interest and poor adherence to existing governance procedures.”

Following the backlash to its carbon offset statement, in April, the organisation issued a clarification that “no changes have been made to SBTi current standards” and that “any use of EACs for Scope 3 will be informed by evidence.”

Dr Luiz Amaral, CEO of SBTi, has since announced that he is stepping down “for personal reasons.”

In the new joint statement, the signatories write that offsetting, “at best”, does not reduce the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere but rather moves emission reductions from one place to another.

“The logic of offsetting is built on the idea that one entity gets to keep emitting.”

It is also outlined that offsetting “inherently” lacks credibility.

Indeed, the statement refers to the social and environmental harms uncovered by numerous investigations over the years.

It also highlights “non-permanent carbon removal,” which is falsely equated with the reduction of (permanent) emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels.

It notes that even if all of the quality issues mentioned could be fixed, projects and land would not be sufficiently available to feed the demand for a pay-to-keep-emitting model promoted by the inclusion of carbon offset credits into Scope 3 emissions accounting.

The statement also puts forward that carbon credits send a misleading signal about the efforts required to pursue climate action.

It argues that they undermine carbon prices by providing a false sense of the existence of ultra-cheap
abatement options around the world.

“They also risk disincentivizing the significant investments needed to ensure profound changes to corporate value chains and economic systems,” the statement reads.

Indeed, it is outlined that while companies can make a positive impact by funding carbon-related projects beyond their own value chain, these efforts do not reduce the necessary investments to abate emissions from their own operations or absolve them from accountability to clean up and pay for the impacts of their pollution.

“We call for scientific, ambitious, equitable, robust, credible and transparent rules around carbon accounting and corporate climate target setting. Voluntary and regulatory frameworks on climate transition planning must exclude offsetting,” the statement concludes.

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