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Carbon offset programs are a good idea in theory, but the unregulated and opaque markets that have emerged have major design flaws. Carbon credit traders often target indigenous communities in Latin America and Africa, sweet-talking them into signing up for forest carbon rights. These contracts are almost always exploitative, and some dealers have taken a more aggressive approach, such as TotalEnergies, which has taken land from Congolese farmers for reforestation programs without paying for it fairly.

Problems with the current system

Lack of regulation: The carbon offset market is largely unregulated, which allows carbon credit traders to engage in questionable behavior, such as inflating the amount of carbon they plan to capture.
Exploitation of Indigenous Communities: Carbon credit traders often target indigenous communities in Latin America and Africa, where land rights issues are complex and indigenous peoples’ customary land rights are not always recognized. These communities are often forced to sign exploitative contracts giving up their rights to forest carbon.
Bleaching green: many offset programs exaggerate the amount of carbon they capture. A joint investigation by The Guardian, The Times and SourceMaterial, a non-profit investigative journalism organization, concluded that as much as 94% of rainforest offsets in Vila are bad for the climate.
The solution

Carbon offsets: a good idea gone wrong

Strict regulation: The carbon offset market must be strictly regulated to ensure that carbon credit schemes are credible and do not exploit indigenous communities.
Long-term financial security for forest communities: Forest communities must be provided with long-term financial security to protect their forests. This can be achieved through direct payments or through investment in community-led development projects.
A seat at the decision-making table: Forest communities must have a seat at the decision-making table when it comes to carbon offset programs and other climate change mitigation initiatives.

Nature-based carbon offset programs can be a valuable tool for mitigating global warming, but only if they are properly regulated and implemented. The current system is riddled with flaws that lead to the exploitation of indigenous communities and exaggerated climate impacts. Now is a good time to overhaul the carbon offset market.

Additional thoughts

The article also mentions that the regulatory framework for carbon markets being developed by the United Nations has not yet properly considered human rights. This is a major problem as it could set a dangerous precedent for all other standards. It is important that human rights are a primary consideration in any new regulation of the carbon market.

Overall, this paper provides a well-argued and informative critique of the current carbon offset market. It is a must-read for anyone interested in climate change mitigation and the role forests can play.

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