27 January, 2023
The voluntary carbon offset market has come under fire again. Last week, an investigation revealed that over 90% of certified rainforest offset credits were found to have no positive impact for the climate. This raises questions about the climate claims of big-name brands such as Disney, Gucci, Netflix and Shell. But will this force them to re-consider their climate strategies? And should it?
High-quality certified offsets should (in theory) lead to additional reduction or removal and permanent storage of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere. However, we already knew that offsets can be a controversial mechanism for addressing climate change, enabling businesses to avoid making any meaningful changes to their high-emitting operations and products.
Verra, the largest offset certifier, which was the focus of this investigation, has since responded justifying the use of forest offset credits. It dismissed the investigation’s findings as “outlandish”. But it is hard to ignore such a wide-ranging list of negative findings, from the overestimation of project impact to their associated human rights issues.
Ultimately, high-quality offset projects have potential to make the necessary contributions required to limit global temperature rise to safe levels and benefit local communities. Maybe upcoming standards will improve project outcomes and avoid billions more in funding wasted on ineffective offset credits. But, whatever your stance on offsetting may be, this is yet another reminder that businesses must focus on reducing their own scope 1, 2 & 3 emissions to make a meaningful contribution to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.
By Jovontae Catline