That’s the warning from Steffen Böhm and Siddhartha Dabhi, two researchers from the University of Essex who have compiled a new book, “Upsetting the Offset: The Political Economy of Carbon Markets.”
Launched in advance of next month’s scheduled climate talks in Copenhagen, the book features contributions from more than 30 experts in the business of carbon. A digital version of the book can be downloaded free here.
While carbon offsetting has become a multi-billion-pound global business, the reality is that many of these schemes have actually made matters worse, Böhm and Dabhi argue. The two advise businesses and organisations to reduce their carbon footprint by undertaking initiatives closer to home, rather than funding carbon offsetting programmes in deprived countries thousands of miles away.
“Carbon offsetting and carbon markets haven’t really delivered the reductions of greenhouse gas emissions they claimed and in many ways have just made the problem worse,” they state. “These schemes have often just provided an incentive for big polluting companies to continue emitting greenhouse gases rather than to change their ways.”
“Often, carbon offsetting schemes have very negative effects on local communities and eco-systems in developing countries.”
The book contributes to a growing field of critics of carbon markets by highlighting several up-to-date examples of where the system has failed and often led to negative social, economic and environmental impacts in deprived countries.
“Carbon markets simply don’t address the underlying and root causes of climate change, which is an over-consumption of finite fossil fuels,” Böhm and Dabhi argue. “We are addicted to oil, gas, coal and a whole range of other fossil fuels, which, when burned for heating, electricity generation or other usages, release greenhouse gases. It is now time to make up for the lost decade since Kyoto and start to deal with our underlying reliance on fossil fuels.”
The two also warn that companies claiming to be “carbon neutral” due to carbon offsetting need to be careful as the schemes they are supporting may not be as green as they think.