Knowing what carbon credits are and which types exist (see part I), we want to discuss the dark side of these climate incentives. Just two months ago (10th of June), UN Environment published an article written by a climate specialist who claimed that considering carbon offsets as a measure to reduce emissions is a get-out-jail-free card as people carry on polluting via buying diesel cars, flying and powering their homes with fossil fuels. This phenomenon is also called greenwashing. On the 11th of June, the article was taken down and a revised article has been published as it was a web-story and not an official statement. UN Environment itself claimed to be climate neutral since 2008 via purchasing carbon credits.
Is the whole concept a scam?
The truth is that offsetting via carbon credits is getting under fire and some concerned people consider it as permission to pollute. But, before believing this, people should ask themselves why more and more governments and companies are offsetting via carbon credits if it is such a bad thing.
Going back to the origin, the Kyoto Protocol (1997) allowed developed countries to invest in emission reduction projects in developing countries. Thus, those countries can develop clean energies to reduce future emissions. Individuals, companies, and organizations buy carbon credits to offset their emissions and to support the project. In the past, the critics have been related to planting trees but nowadays, it has evolved from planting trees to efficient cookstoves, capturing methane gas at landfill sites, wastewater treatments and converting waste to energy.
It is important to see the benefits of each project before considering to support or not to support carbon offsetting. Efficient cookstoves, for example, can help poor families by saving money, improving air quality in their houses in regions like Oaxaca and Chiapas in Mexico. The mechanism improved over the years as new standards arose measuring also social and community impact.
Carbon credits are a controversial measure to tackle GHG emissions but a first step. It should be considered as an intermediate solution to support projects in countries where people don’t have the possibility to do something against climate change and supporting communities.