20 Apr 2007

Carbon offset: We think it is mostly a con

Politics com debates carbon offset with contributions from the Government, cons, lib dems and the Green Party.

I argue:

'Carbon offset sounds promising but the Green Party is critical of how it works in practice. We would echo many of the criticisms of the Durban group, which suggest that the framework within which present policy works is both ineffective and biased toward the interests of elite groups.

First, some schemes are simply fraudulent and are at best based on dubious accounting. For example, if you fly carbon is emitted today but by planting a tree is absorbed over decades (and released if the tree dies). Strong legislation is needed to make sure that carbon is actually off set, often it is not.

Second, some schemes involving taking land out of the hands of local people in developing countries who often practice a low carbon and ecologically sensitive lifestyle. Plantar SA in Brazil have received and Chris Lang has produced evidence of abuse of local people for carbon offset in Uganda.

Third, it allows the relatively prosperous to continue polluting while shifting the burden on to poorer citizens. It reduces guilt without tackling the fundamental problem of moving to a low carbon economy

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