At the COP26 climate conference, carbon market players and environmentalists met to discuss how to improve the quality of carbon offsets. The event grabbed the headlines – but not for the reasons its organizer, Mark Carney, had presumably hoped for.
Greta Thunberg, who attended the meeting, halfway out saying out loud: “Stop greenwashing”.
The Swedish teenage activist echoed the position taken by Greenpeace. In November, the environmental NGO published a blog post titled “Carbon Offsets are a Scam”.
The language of the message was even more emotional. The offsets are “an accounting trick to hide climate-destroying emissions”, “tree planting as a cover” and “a permit to keep polluting”.
They also, apparently unacceptably, “put a price on nature” and “distort economies and take away land and resources from local communities in need. [sic] more”.
This approach is supported by other influential environmental groups such as the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which also highlights the supposed dangers carbon credits pose to indigenous peoples and biodiversity.
However, many environmentalists find this vocal opposition to compensation deeply frustrating. For them, carbon markets offer a great way – indeed, perhaps the only way – to raise desperately needed funds to tackle the crisis of nature, especially in poorer countries.