Carbon offsets are not our get-out-of-jail free card

From the UN:  Buying carbon credits in exchange for a clean conscience while you carry on flying, buying diesel cars and powering your homes with fossil fuels is being challenged (ed. note first draft term was “unacceptable”) by people concerned about climate change.

…Offsets also risk giving the dangerous illusion of a “fix” that will allow our billowing emissions to just continue to grow.

Scientists, activists and concerned citizens have started to voice their concerns over how carbon offsets have been used by polluters as a free pass for inaction. Annual emissions have to reduce by 29-32 gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide (CO2e) by 2030 to maintain a fighting chance to stay below 1.5°C. This is a five-fold increase on current ambition.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the first to call everyone to action. “We are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption,” he says.

The climate crisis is now considered our gravest existential threat. Fifty per cent of climate changing pollutants have been pumped into our atmosphere—from power stations, cars, agriculture—since just 1990, and this amount is growing every second.

If we are serious about averting catastrophic planetary changes, we need to reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030. Trees planted today can’t grow fast enough to achieve this goal. And carbon offset projects will never be able to curb the emissions growth, while reducing overall emissions, if coal power stations continue to be built and petrol cars continue to be bought, and our growing global population continues to consume as it does today.

This is not to say that carbon offset projects should stop, quite the opposite. We must continue to plant trees and protect forests and peatlands. Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects are critical and offset schemes play an important role in funding and upscaling them. The projects that offset schemes support are vital: trees must be planted, existing forests and peatlands that hold and absorb carbon must be protected.

(ed. commentary:  offsets should only be used for drawing down exceed CO2, not trying to offset continued high levels of fossil fuel use.)

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