Studies of international carbon offset schemes have revealed examples of widespread fraud and abuse. Now, investigations into two of the most prominent carbon offset providers in the United States have revealed that neither of them actually offers real reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, says Todd Wynn, Vice President of the Cascade Policy Institute.
- Carbon offsets are defined as a reduction, removal, or avoidance of GHG emissions from a specific project that is used to compensate for GHG emissions occurring elsewhere.
- By purchasing a carbon offset, businesses, electric utilities or individuals pay someone to reduce emissions elsewhere, rather than change their own behavior.
The two key principles of carbon offsets are additionality (i.e., a project would not be completed without carbon offset funds) and proper monitoring/verification of results. If these two principles are not met in entirety, then the offset is not a real reduction in GHG emissions, according to industry experts.
Cascade's audit exposed the failures by the nation's leading carbon offset providers, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) and the Climate Trust. Their projects reveal that they failed to prove additionality or to show proper monitoring or verification for all of their claimed carbon offsets, which undermine the entire carbon offset industry, says Wynn:
- BEF carbon offset funds paid for projects that were already going to be built, did not reduce emissions directly or at all, and used a portion of the proceeds for watershed restoration (not for offsetting emissions).
- The Climate Trust projects also suffer from the same problems; the investigation revealed carbon offsets funding Native American canoe journeys, wind projects that had already been built and passing out bicycle helmets.
- Accordingly, offset purchasers are not buying a real, verifiable product, though they do get to feel as though they are reducing GHGs so long as the mirage stays in place.
Source: Todd Wynn, "The Climate Swindle," Oregon Catalyst, April 9, 2010.
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