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Now that we are aware of the flaws in carbon offsets, it is time to be real about climate change

Now that we are aware of the flaws in carbon offsets, it is time to be real about climate change

Plane taking off from runway

Last month Andrew MacIntosh was the carbon market watchdog The whistle was blown on Australia’s carbon offset market. He described the scheme as a “rort” with up to 80% of carbon offsets “markedly low in integrity”.

These allegations have rekindled debate about carbon offsets. However, these issues are not new. Since the inception of carbon trading schemes, and offsets, integrity issues have plagued them. First emergedIn the mid 1990s.

This might seem like a major bug. In fact, it’s a feature. Polluting industries want low-cost compliance with climate laws – and poor quality offsets satisfy this demand. The key phrase there is “low cost”. That’s the reason free-market economists championed this kind of flexible compliance over direct regulation in the first place.

For polluters, it’s an easy win: buy offsets, appear to have done something, and keep on polluting. Bad quality offsets can make climate change worse.

Who wins? The rest of us. Flexible compliance and questionable offsets have slowed the shift away form oil, gas, and coal.

Should we completely abandon offsets? Or do they still have a place?

Plane taking off from runway
Where emissions are difficult to control, offsets can be used.
Con Chronis/AAP

Market experimentation fails with carbon offsets

Carbon offsets have played a significant role in government and industry’s climate change response since emerging from early global climate negotiations. They don’t require major changes in the status quo, which has made them very popular.

The experimentation of free market economists with their industry partners has led to new ways of paying for emission reduction technology changes, avoiding deforestation and planting new trees. These methods have been packaged as certificates and sold. Market platforms created by both government and private actors as certified “Emissions reductions”.

This has many problems.

First, the Besorgiments that are well-foundedIt is not clear whether offset projects reduce or absorb carbon. For example, 85% credits in the UN’s long-running carbon offset scheme It didn’t actuallyReduce emissions by 2017. This meant that coal-fired power stations, and industrial gas facilities owned or controlled by oil companies like Shell, were effectively subsidised while simultaneously increasing their emissions.

One of the world’s first regulatory carbon markets in NSW was Similar problems plagued by issues of “additionality” – that is, whether the offset activities would have happened anyway.

There are also questions regarding the governance of offsets. To make offsets a real market, buyers and sellers must be distinct. Offsets must also be independently verified. Australia’s offsets aren’t.

The Clean Energy Regulator purchases, sells, and endorses the integrity, purchase, and sale, of offsets.

Garbage pile in landfill
It has been criticized that offsets given for landfill gas projects do not reduce emissions.
Shutterstock

Are carbon offsets more reliable?

Some experts argue that offsets and carbon market should be considered Can be fixedThrough greater transparency, oversight and stringent regulations Baselines. This is attractive because it saves time for those sectors that don’t have a zero-emission technology alternative to develop one.

But this optimism is too optimistic. Over the past 25 years, a clear pattern has been established for each offset program: problems are obvious, calls for improvement grow, more transparency arrives but industry pressure to comply at low costs means that almost nothing actually changes.

This soft regulation has been a boon for some industries, especially those involved in fossil fuel extraction. Links to political partiesSince many years, this has been a problem.

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Carbon offset markets won’t be fixed by calls for clear rules, especially while the Clean Energy Regulator is the buyer, seller and regulator of Australia’s offsets.

Beyond carbon offsets

What should we do when offsets are not designed correctly? We should change from offsetting to a simple concept: Keep fossil fuels In the ground.

Market-based approaches for environmental compliance have provided a huge windfall for the fossil fuel sector, whose emissions have been very low. GrownSince the beginning of offsetsetting. The industryIt sponsored think tanks to encourage flexible compliance, attacked climate science, lobbied against international treaties to phase out fossil fuels, and has sponsored them.

Wind generators in a modern windfarm
The best way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is to replace fossil fuels by renewable energy.
Shutterstock

We must not view emissions from industries as something that can be offset. Instead, we must embrace the shift toward a low carbon society, which is free of fossil fuel combustion. We must let go of the myth that carbon pricing or offsetting will make technology improvements that will save us.

What does this mean for those who buy high-quality carbon offsets to fly? It might be a worthy act of charity, but it won’t undo the long-term damage done by carbon dioxide emissions.

StoppingNew fossil fuel projects are the best way to prevent our shrinking carbon budgets from causing dangerous levels of warming. The easy monitoring and verification of the gradual phasing-out of fossil fuels is possible, unlike offsets. As we try to combat the worst effects of climate change, we know that cutting down on fossil fuel use is a good thing.

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