Buying Your Way Out of Climate Action More Popular in U.S.


Photo via The Rainforest Foundation

A new survey finds that European corporate carbon credit customers favor offsets as a means to cut GHG emissions far less that traders in North America. The disparity seems to come from a more vigorous public debate in the EU over the merits of offsets, while in the U.S. the conversation is just beginning.According to E&E;:

Seventy-four percent of corporate carbon credit customers in North America said they held "positive" or "very positive" views toward generating and purchasing carbon offsets through projects aimed at reducing deforestation and reforesting degraded areas by planting trees, according to a study by four organizations active in the carbon markets. Seventy-six percent of corporate customers in other regions like Latin America and Asia agreed.

But only 36 percent of respondents in Europe said so. The sharp difference in attitudes likely reflects the results of the more vigorous public and private debate into offset projects that led up to the creation of the European Union's Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) and the Kyoto Protocol agreement.

The import of offset credits for reforestation and forest protections is heavily restricted under the ETS. And forestry offset projects are all but banned under the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism, except in very limited circumstances and only to generate temporary emission reduction credits, which hold little value in carbon markets.

The survey of 141 corporate purchasers of offsets around the world was undertaken by project developer EcoSecurities; the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance; industry information hub ClimateBiz; and Conservation International. The companies targeted for the study had each purchased at least 2.7 million offset credits in 2008, including 850,000 credits each from forestry.

The climate and energy bill moving thought the House, known as ACES, contains huge opportunities for polluters to buy offsets. In its current form, the bill allows for up to 1 billion tons of emission reductions to be completed through offsets. The result, according to many environmentalists, could be a boon for corporate carbon traders, corrupt officials in the developing world, and U.S. polluters who can buy their way of of making real remissions reductions.

One group, The Breakthrough Institute, did an excellent survey of ACES and concluded that "if fully utilized, the offset provisions in the ACES bill would allow continued business as usual growth in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions until 2030. You can read their full analysis here.

More on offsets
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