【意見交流園地 Idea Exchange】Karen Ho
A carbon credit is a paper security representing one ton of CO2 reduced or removed from the atmosphere, generated by projects like wind farms or planting trees. Buyers can trade the units or use them to offset their own emissions, in which case they must retire the credit to avoid it being used twice.
The recent independent scientific analysis of a project’s CO2 reduction claims often lags behind the issuance of the corresponding carbon credits, leaving buyers in the $2 billion market exposed to losses.
Unlike its regulated equivalent in the compliance market, the voluntary carbon market lacks oversight, and buyers can find that promises made by sellers don’t always hold true.
relying on carbon credits to support their green claims now face “robust and
credible” proof that the vast majority of such securities aren’t fit for
purpose, according to a study published in the journal Science, by a team of researchers from
the Universities of Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Cambridge (UK).
The research, which analyzed 18 carbon-offset projects across Peru, Colombia, Cambodia, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, found that only 5.4 million — or 6% — of a potential 89 million credits were linked to additional carbon reductions through preserved forests. More than 60 million carbon credits originated from projects that barely reduced deforestation.
has been a suspicion that these carbon credits lead to greenwashing,” said
Andreas Kontoleon, the study’s senior author and a professor of environmental
economics and public policy at the University of Cambridge. “We now have robust
and credible evidence that offset programs have deficiencies”
A number of major carbon traders are finding that offsets they bought may now have no value. Trafigura Group, the world’s largest trader of carbon-removal credits, has suspended a consignment as it awaits the results of a probe into the forestry project behind the units. The situation has led the company to replace the offsets in a contract with a corporate client and instead keep the stranded credits on its own books.
Since the first carbon credit was traded roughly 35 years ago, the market has been hit by a steady stream of scandals that have led to wild price swings and even collapsing valuations. That has implications not just for firms trading such credits, but also for companies that use them to underpin green claims to customers and regulators.
All the projects studied offsets detailed in Science are overseen by the NGO Verra, which dominates the sector. These programs are part of the “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation” (REDD+) system, developed by the United Nations but organized by private institutions. The standard setter said it has “significant concerns” about the study’s methodology because of the small sample size. Extrapolating the study’s conclusions to all carbon offset projects is unwarranted when only about one out of four projects have been examined, Verra said. “We recognize the areas for improvement in the current system and are committed to fostering that ongoing evolution,” Verra added in a statement on its website.