The Dangers of Carbon Offsetting

The Dangers of Carbon Offsetting

Recently, we’ve shared information on why people are protesting at COP26. We’ve also shared a great video looking at new strategies to tackle climate change. Today, we are looking at something different. Specifically, the dangers of carbon offsetting. The post draws from the excellent work of our friends over at Friends of the Earth, who we’ve previously collaborated with on our successful Bees and Pollinators Project.

They’ve recently published a superb report entitled “A Dangerous Distraction: Why Offsetting Will Worsen the Climate and Nature Emergencies” which we encourage you all to read.

What is Carbon Offsetting?

Carbon offsetting reduces emissions of carbon dioxide in one area so that they can still be produced in another.

Individuals and businesses have been practicing carbon offsetting for a while. For example, an individual may wish to fly to another country. In doing so, they’d calculate the carbon emissions of that flight and work out how long they would need to eat meat-free meals for in order to balance out the carbon emissions.

Businesses often use carbon offset schemes or projects. This is where they will pay towards and help support an environmental project in return for the carbon they use. However, it’s seen as a way to compensate for the continued use of fossil fuels.

Carbon offsetting is seen as part of the “greenwashing agenda”. Businesses and governments around the world use it as way to continue as they have always done.

As the Friends of the Earth report states carbon offsetting is “based on the premise that we have the luxury of causing environmental harm in one place by reducing harm in another”. However, the reality is we do not have this luxury.

What are the Dangers of Carbon Offsetting?

There are many dangers associated with carbon offsetting.

First and foremost, the practice doesn’t actually aim to limit any activities that produce carbon emissions. All planes will still fly as the carbon is just “offset” elsewhere. However, in reality, at least the same amount of carbon will be produced. It has been calculated that carbon “offsetting schemes and other carbon-removal approaches could lead to an additional 1.4°C of global heating

Carbon offsetting is simply a waste of resources. Both time and money have been and will continue to be wasted while governments implement it as a solution to climate change.

Furthermore, carbon offsetting schemes can be harmful themselves. For example, the Friends of the Earth report details that:

  • Tree planting offsets can be planted in the wrong location, and thus may not be effective or efficient in reclaiming carbon.
  • Carbon offset projects can often displace Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
  • Carbon offsets sanctioned through REDD or REDD+ can result in terrible impacts for local communities.

What Alternatives are there to Carbon Offsetting?

There are plenty of alternatives to carbon offsetting. Many will be discussed at events taking place in relation to COP26.

However, these alternatives require big changes to be made. This is why governments are reluctant to commit to them. Examples include:

  • Ending the use of fossil fuels
  • Promoting green travel and construction
  • Increasing the use of renewable energies
  • Restoring habitats, ecosystems and the natural world

Such changes are possible. Governments must act now, before it’s too late.

Find out more about carbon offsetting by reading the Friends of the Earth report now!

Have you tried carbon offsetting? What are your views? Let us know in the comments below!

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