The Perils of Carbon Offsets: ‘Perverse’ CO2 Payments

carbon trading

Writing in Yale Environment 360, Mark Schapiro reports on European companies that have been overpaying China to offset their own carbon emissions by incinerating a powerful greenhouse gas known as hfc 23.

If that’s not all, those very payments have spurred manufacturing of an ozone-depleting refrigerant, hcfc 22, that is being smuggled into the U.S. and used illegally.

As Schapiro puts it,

That black market completes a global circuit unique to the era of climate change: From China’s industrial zones, the credits for the greenhouse gases — bought and sold as commodities on the global carbon markets — flow to European companies that need them to continue polluting at home, while the underlying ozone-depleting gas responsible for creating those credits flows to American companies seeking discounted refrigerants.

This speaks to the perils of carbon offset programs and potential abuses, but also that safeguards such as the NGOs set up to monitor offset programs do play a valuable role.  According to Schapiro, “Two European nonprofits, the Germany-based CDM Watch and the London-based Environmental Investigations Agency, kicked off the controversy when they asserted last summer that European companies were paying dramatically inflated prices for the emissions credits.”

Source: The Green Skeptic

This is precisely what a previous post alluded to; carbon trading and carbon offsets are often abused in order for industries to simply continue damaging the environment while their public relations departments openly greenwash their activities.  In principle, carbon trading can be beneficial but it really should only be used in the short term, not indefinitely.

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