On October 6th, Greenpeace’s Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said at the Reuters Impact conference that carbon offset is not a solution for tackling global warming and that it is a form of greenwashing allowing companies to continue the business as usual scenario.
“There’s no time for offsets. We are in a climate emergency and we need phasing out of fossil fuels…These offsetting schemes … are pure ‘greenwash’ so that the companies, oil companies, can continue to do what they’ve been doing and make a profit,” according to Jennifer Morgan.
The voluntary carbon offset model is a scheme that provides companies around the world with the flexibility to purchase credits from a project that offers a reduction of emissions like a new solar farm or a tree-planting project.
The companies don’t reduce emissions themselves but instead compensate for their carbon footprint by transferring the reductions somewhere else. The industry of carbon offsetting could be worth $50 billion by 2030 according to a task force created to scale it up.
There is criticism especially from environmental organizations like Greenpeace that this market allows major polluters like Exxon, Chevron and Shell to put off cutting their own emissions and avoid divesting from hydrocarbons.
If the world is to transition towards a net zero economy, phasing out fossil fuels completely and replacing them with renewable energy or other sources of zero-emissions energy is the most critical step.
While it is true that carbon offsetting initiatives could be an excuse for some companies to continue emitting as they always have, the transition towards an entirely new energy system is a complex and time-consuming process.
It can take decades for the world to build up new energy capacity from alternative sources and make sure they can meet the global demand for safe and reliable energy that is also on the rise. The energy needs in developing regions like India and Africa are increasing and so far fossil fuels are the most reliable and cheap resource that can power these economies.
Carbon offsets could be one solution that can buy enough time for the world to accelerate clean technologies as most of them are in their infancy stages of development. However, they should not be used as an excuse to slow down or worse – stop the transition towards a green economy.
Greenpeace and other climate advocates are calling companies to halt investing in any new oil, gas, and coal supply projects, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Their warning also comes weeks before the critical UN climate conference COP26 when delegates are expected to work on designing a market to channel money into offset and emissions removal projects in order to reach the Paris Agreement goals.
Greenpeace’s warning is coming at a critical moment when global leaders need to make important decisions on how the world will address the climate emergency going forward.
While I agree that as we are in a state of a climate crisis, and therefore, there is no time for postponing or offsetting anything, the reality shows economies are not prepared financially or technically to phase out fossil fuels right away.
Solutions like carbon offset and carbon capture technologies could provide some short-term CO2 reduction benefits until more developed clean energy sources swamp the market.