To summarise the intense feud online on whether carbon offsetting is good or bad, we can say that it depends. To some, carbon offsetting may seem like greenwashing, but what you need to be crucial about is whether the offset project is trying to fool you or not. In this article, we will prepare you the best we can for you to understand and be aware of whether or not carbon offsets are shady.

What is carbon offsetting?

Carbon offsetting is one of many ways you can compensate for the emissions you create in your everyday life by funding an equivalent carbon dioxide somewhere else around the world.

To reach its main goals, the United Kingdom is implementing carbon offsetting in several of its strategies. For example, they have implemented this to achieve their main goal to become net zero emissions by 2050 and to reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030.

One of the many ways that the United Kingdom is implementing these goals is by setting specific targets within their carbon offsetting strategies such as planting trees. In 2021, they have set a target of at least 30,000 hectares of trees a year which is around 120 tennis courts!

Examples of Carbon offsetting

A few ways to carbon offset include the following:

  • 🌳 Forestry – tree planting in areas that are facing deforestation
  • 🚚 Agriculture – farmers growing crops with technology and techniques to reduce waste
  • ✈️ Aviation – airline operators optimising fight paths
  • ♻️ Renewable energy – replacing fossil fuel use with clean, renewable energy such as a wind farm
  • 🌊 Water management – projects that get clean water to areas with polluted / contaminated water
  • πŸ—‘ Waste management – projects that capture methane from landfills from waste disposal
  • πŸ’¨ Carbon sequestration – Taking carbon out of the air and store it in on Earth in areas such as soil, swamps, and trees
  • ⚑️ Energy efficiency – project that aims to improve efficiency of existing infrastructure by upgrading building insulation

Which schemes are shady?

There are two different types of shady schemes that commonly appear. These include projects that never happened and projects that threatened the community.

Projects that never happened:

The following schemes are shady carbon-offsetting projects that never took place:

    • 🌳 The Vatican fell into a scheme from KlimaFa where their offsets were presented as certificates for millions of trees that ended up not being planted.
    • 🌱 The Nature Conservancy, which runs offsetting projects, were selling carbon credits to protect forests that were never in danger in the first place. 

      JPMorgan Chase & Co., Walt Disney, BlackRock, and Chevrolet all bought carbon credits from one of The Nature Conservancy projects thinking that they could offset their emissions however the land of the project was never threatened as the trees were already part of a well-preserved forest.

    • πŸ“ƒ EasyJet and British Airlines are unable to prove any of their promises with their carbon offsetting projects. They do not have proof of the carbon offsetting efforts.

Projects that threatened the community:

The following schemes are shady carbon-offsetting projects that threatened and crossed human rights violations:

  • πŸ§β€β™‚οΈ In 2019, the Government of India was going to follow a shady scheme with forest reinforcement and planting more trees but it was going to cross human rights violations by evicting 9 million people, who are mainly members of tribes.
  • ✈️ EasyJet invested $1.1 million in the Madre de Dios Amazon REDD+ Project, which overlaps the territory of the Mascho Piro – Indigenous Peoples who are living in voluntary isolation.

Overall, several of these fraud carbon schemes have simply one motive: to take advantage of the climate change crisis and create projects to steal from others. As you may realize, these low-quality carbon projects are not delivering the promises that they have made to their clients. This includes their climate benefits and they have serious negative consequences for biodiversity and human rights.

What is the % of carbon offsetting projects that are not shady?

Compensate, a carbon offsetting company conducted a study and reported that 91% of carbon offsetting projects fail and become shady. But the other 9% of the projects won’t solve the climate crisis.

In addition, the schemes that turn out to be shady and are certified by international standards, such as Verra or Gold Standard, tend to fail to meet sustainability criteria. These criteria that they tend to fail to include the following:

  1. 🏭 Intended emissions reduction – Several project credits rely on vague forecasts of the future, meaning the emissions of today will only be removed in the future.
  2. 🌐 Community conflicts – For example, the government can forcefully kick people out of their own property if they are in the project area.
  3. 🌫 Unreliable baseline – Baseline emissions are those that would be emitted if the project didn’t exist. For instance, a project might use a small, extensively deforested area close to a city or the seaside as a reference area to forecast up to 100% deforestation of the entire project area over the course of the following 30 years.
  4. ⚑️ Permanence risks – Once a project ends in a specific area, such as forests, there is a risk that the carbon that has been captured will once again be released into the atmosphere.
  5. 🌱 Additionally – The project doesn’t help bring on more climate advantages.

Which carbon offsetting projects are successful?

Although there are several shady schemes evolving around carbon offsetting, there are several schemes that had a significant impact. One of the most impressive carbon offsetting project includes the following:

Myclimate, one of the most reliable companies you should invest in, has had several success stories from all around the world. They have partnered with Maestrani, a chocolate company, and were able to carbon offset into a project located in Peru. This specific project was on efficient stoves in Peru and they were able to reduce their annual CO2 emissions by 75,526 t. This project is to introduce efficient cookstoves made from local materials and improve living conditions.
This project has the following positive outcomes:

  • πŸ‘©β€πŸ”§ 862 jobs generated
  • πŸ’¨ 406’000 beneficiaries profit from better air.
  • 🍳 406’000 poor people have benefited from clean cooking technology.
  • πŸ€” 35% fuel savings achieved.

🌱 You can find more reliable projects with Native, My Climate, or Sustainable Travel 🌱

These positive schemes involve different projects that include the following:

  • πŸ’¦ Clean water
  • πŸ’« Nature-based
  • ♻️ Renewable energy
  • 🚜 Agricultural methane capture/combustion
  • πŸ“‰ Emission reduction
  • πŸ’‘ Energy efficiency
  • πŸ›’ Oil recycling
  • β˜€οΈ Solar power
  • 🌬 Wind power
  • 🌳 Forest management


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