80 Non-Profits Urge Ditching Carbon Credits In Climate Strategies

Non-Profits Urge Ditching Carbon Credits In Climate Strategies - Carbon Herald
Source: Alan Frijns from Pixabay

Over 80 environmental organizations have joined forces to denounce the use of carbon credits in climate action plans. They argue that allowing companies and countries to rely on these credits to meet their climate goals could actually slow down global efforts to cut emissions.

This statement comes in response to a recent announcement by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). In April, the SBTi said it would offer updated guidelines on how companies can use “environmental attribute certificates,” including carbon credits, to achieve their climate targets, especially for indirect emissions (Scope 3).

Currently, companies aligning with the SBTi’s Net-Zero Standard can only offset 10% of their total emissions through carbon credits. Many businesses have expressed concerns about achieving significant reductions on their own.

The SBTi is considering raising this 10% limit on carbon credits, a move opposed by most NGOs. However, six NGOs did express support for this decision in a separate letter to the SBTi last month.

Today’s joint statement calls for both voluntary and government-mandated climate action plans to exclude offsetting. Signatories include major organizations like Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and Oxfam.

Relevant: Developing Countries Call On SBTi To Push For Companies To Be Able To Use Carbon Offsets

The statement argues that a small number of companies, both private and state-owned, are responsible for a vast majority of historical greenhouse gas emissions. 

These companies, they say, have a clear responsibility to drastically cut their own emissions by implementing concrete measures throughout their operations, instead of relying on carbon credits as a shortcut.

The letter emphasizes that the difficulty of achieving these significant reductions shouldn’t be an excuse for “creative accounting” and distractions from actual emissions reductions.

Concerns About Carbon Offsetting

The statement outlines four main concerns about promoting carbon offsetting:

1. Delayed Action: Offsetting might simply postpone real emission reductions by shifting them elsewhere, allowing high-polluting activities to continue.

2. Questionable Credibility: Issues like unreliable additional reductions, unrealistic baselines, and impermanent carbon removal cast doubt on the effectiveness of carbon offsetting.

3. Supply Shortage: There simply aren’t enough high-quality carbon credits available to achieve the necessary level of emissions reductions.

4. Misleading Perception & Discouragement: Offsetting creates the illusion of cheap solutions, undermines carbon pricing efforts, and discourages essential investments in cutting emissions within companies’ own operations.

Efforts to Improve Carbon Markets

Despite the ongoing debate surrounding voluntary carbon markets (VCMs), there are efforts underway to make them more transparent and ensure the quality of available carbon credits.

The Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative (VCMI) is developing a set of rules for companies entering the VCM market. 

Relevant: Nearly 240 Major Corporations Miss Pledge Deadline Under SBTi

These rules emphasize that carbon credits should represent genuine, verifiable emission reductions or removals, and adhere to strict environmental and social standards.

Importantly, the VCMI guidance stresses that carbon credits should be used in addition to, not instead of, proactive efforts to reduce emissions at the source.

The VCMI has also announced the first companies that will participate in developing its “rulebook” for credit usage. These companies will help refine the VCMI’s Claims Code of Practice.

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