“The climate benefits of ‘carbon offsetting’ are exaggerated at best, imaginary at worst”.

“The climate benefits of ‘carbon offsetting’ are exaggerated at best, imaginary at worst”.

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RRest assured: everything is compensated. Whether you’re enjoying Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, taking an EasyJet or British Airways flight, treating yourself to Gucci clothing, or watching a Netflix series, you’re exposed to a reassuring charge ( or could have been) “carbon neutral”, Greenhouse gas emissions resulting from your product or service have no effect on the climate.

Behind each of these guilt-free messages is hidden a complex technical, accounting and financial mechanism: the construction of forestry projects in the countries of the South (forest protection, afforestation, afforestation), the certification and calculation of carbon credits generated by these projects, The sale of these credits to companies wishing to offset their emissions and thus finance initiatives by local players.

Climate drift, or an economically rational solution to a giant mystery? published these days, a careful and explosive investigation conducted by the daily Guardian and weekly die zeitSourceMaterial, in collaboration with investigative journalists, leans towards the second option.

Our British and German colleagues analyzed a sample of around thirty projects certified by VERA, the main standards organization based in Washington. By our partners’ calculations, these projects have generated over a hundred million carbon credits – enough to offset the annual emissions of about twenty coal-fired power plants.

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The result: only 5.5% of these credits were genuine, neutralizing the greenhouse gas emissions they should have. The rest, i.e. about 95% are “Phantom Credit” Which are traded in the market without any climate benefit. Over the past 15 years, Vera says it has issued a total of one billion carbon credits, which represents three years of UK emissions.

“The Market Is Broken”

To arrive at these figures, the authors relied on interviews with former auditors, on analysis of technical documents from the certification body, but also and above all on analysis of satellite images conducted by researchers and published in the scientific literature.

The analysis led to other estimates: Of a set of thirty-two projects certified by VERA and believed to contain a forest area the size of Italy, it is in fact an area comparable to the municipality of Venice that would have been effectively protected. … Unsurprisingly, Vera strongly opposes the method of study that served as the basis for the investigation by our colleagues.

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