Carbon offset warning from Friends of the Earth'Offsetting does not work' says charity

02 June 2009

Planet Earth

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere

Carbon offsetting schemes are failing to reduce carbon emissions, and in some cases are even increasing them, says a new report from Friends of the Earth (FoE).

The UK government uses carbon offsetting credits, and the environmental charity has called on it to stop. FoE is also calling for all developed countries to be made to cut their own emissions rather than buying carbon 'credits' from countries in the developing world.

The charity is also calling for a commitment from all developed nations to reduce carbon emissions by 40%, excluding offsetting, by 2020.

Carbon offsetting

Carbon offsetting is designed to combat global warming by matching or offsetting activities that generate CO2 with an activity that prevents or reduces the equivalent amount of CO2 being released. Our guide to carbon offsetting includes information on how carbon offsetting schemes work.

The executive director of Friends of the Earth, Andy Atkins, said: 'Offsetting is now a dangerous distraction. It institutionalises the idea of cuts in either the north or the south, when science demands reductions in both.'

The report claims that the extension of carbon offsetting schemes - which the UK government will lobby for at next week's UN climate change talks in Bonn - would 'weaken the economic incentive to make real domestic emissions reductions in developed countries and transfer the responsibility of reducing emissions to developing countries, albeit with some financial recompense'.

According to the report's authors: 'Because offset cuts are created against a hypothetical business-as-usual baseline, it is impossible to ensure that offset credits guarantee carbon cuts. Not only can it not guarantee carbon cuts, in some cases it can increase them.'

DECC responds

According to an article in The Times, a spokesman for the Department of the Environment and Climate Change said: 'Offsetting has a role to play in cutting emissions and can bring finance and other benefits to developing countries. The central issues are getting the safeguards right, making it as transparent and eventually moving to a more holistic approach to cutting emissions as part of a global carbon market.'

The report has been released to mark the launch of Friends of the Earth's Demand Climate Change campaign, which is campaigning to achieve a 'strong and fair global climate agreement at UN talks', which resume in Bonn and then culminate in Copenhagen in December.

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