By Chris Lang
In a recent interview with Reuters, Jennifer Morgan, head of Greenpeace International spoke out against carbon offsets. “There’s no time for offsets,” she said. “We’re here in a climate emergency and we need phasing out of fossil fuels and we need no exploration for new fossil fuels, as the International Energy Agency has told us.”
Asked about what Greenpeace would like to see coming out of COP26 in Glasgow, Morgan said governments should “come forward with new commitments that would actually ensure that we can avoid further climate chaos”. She also talked about the “solidarity package” and climate finance for the most vulnerable countries, including loss and damage.
Article 6: “Loophole”
And she talked about the gaping loophole in the centre of the Paris Agreement: Article 6. Including carbon markets in Article 6 would allow countries to avoid reducing emissions themselves and “do something somewhere else, plant some trees”. She called offsetting a “fraud”.
On 22 September 2021, the World Economic Forum published an article by Morgan on its website: “Why carbon offsetting doesn’t cut it”. In the article she writes,
Big polluters, alongside governments addicted to putting profit before people and planet, are in turbocharge mode to hoodwink the public into thinking they are finally taking the climate emergency seriously.
Offsets: A “get-out-of-jail-free card”
She highlights offsetting as a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for Big Polluters:
What these polluting profiteers see as their “get-out-of-jail-free card” in the climate game is offsetting – or, to speak plainly, the heap of voluntary net-zero commitments that are being rolled out almost daily. Nothing new, offsetting is about paying for someone else to reduce or remove carbon, while you continue pumping it into the atmosphere. It’s like a smoker saying they’ve given up, but paying a healthy person for their clean lungs so they can continue puffing. Offsetting is hypocrisy, and it is swirling around more and more as COP26 approaches.
She notes that, “Nature-based offsetting that relies heavily on land use in the global south risks shifting responsibility for emissions made by wealthier nations to those already struggling with the impacts of the climate crisis.”
And she opposes the introduction of carbon trading into the Paris Agreement through Article 6:
A global carbon market would allow the purchase and selling of offsets putting nature and Indigenous communities under excruciating pressure. No outcome on carbon offset markets under Article 6 would be acceptable to safeguard, protect and uphold human rights, especially the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Traditional communities, and to ensure environmental integrity.
Offsets “delay” and “distract”
The day after Morgan’s article, Yeb Saño, director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, had an article in Climate Home News. Saño writes that,
Offsetting has a long history of not actually reducing overall levels of carbon, while exacerbating problems over land rights, food security and biodiversity across the majority of the world – in countries that have the least responsibility for driving the climate crisis.
“Offsetting allows big polluters to delay and distract from reducing their own emissions”, Saño writes.
Saño calls out the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets for “courting CEOs and politicians to entrench this false solution in the run-up to the Cop26 summit in Glasgow”.
“A new trick to screw us all”
Saño concludes his article as follows:
Offsetting is based on exploiting natural carbon sinks of the Global South to justify continued pollution. Voluntary carbon market proponents are now trying to exploit the needs of Global South governments for financial flows to protect nature and transition to 1.5C-compatible economies, by serving up these false solutions as the only thing on offer. Something that people like me should gratefully accept and collude with.
I refuse and I resist. We need justice from these polluting companies – not passing the buck because they can’t be bothered to reduce their own emissions. Just as climate justice litigation closes in to sue the polluters most responsible for the climate crisis, they’ve managed to evolve a new trick to screw us all.
Demanding any less than emissions reductions to keep global temperatures under 1.5C is non-negotiable. This murky business is not climate action. Don’t fall for it.