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5 September 2022

Offsetting our way out of the climate crisis isn’t possible or credible

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John Oliver’s sketch, aired last week, threw a comic light on the world of carbon offsets; some criticisms of which we agree with. While it threw into doubt the validity of carbon offsets and claims, it also potentially damaged the credibility of any corporate climate action. And that’s not helpful.

No one surely believes in offsetting our way out of the climate crisis. It isn’t even possible, let alone credible. 

Emission reductions have to be a first priority and, yes, we fully agree that purchasing carbon credits is not an alternative for internal corporate emission reductions. Deep cuts to stop current emissions can take time and good quality offsets have a role to play in the interim. They are part of a decarbonisation pathway and shouldn’t be used longer than is necessary.

That still is not enough. Cutting emissions alone can’t get us to a stable climate pathway.  We need to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that is already there. Growing forests is the only cost effective solution we have that is ready to do that now. Natural carbon sinks, like forests, represent over one-third of the mitigation the IPCC says we need through 2030. 

The carbon market - through carbon credits - is unlocking billions of dollars that are needed to invest in climate solutions that have never before been available at this scale; to restore entire forests, restore degraded soils and bring back wildlife, clean water where it is so much needed. This is a good thing.

What is challenging, and where criticism is fully justified, is the acceptance of poor quality projects and schemes, lazy communication or an overreliance on offsets. 

We’re focusing on developing restoration projects that have a real and measurable difference. Yes for carbon of course, but far beyond. Protecting and restoring forests are part of reversing our other planetary crisis: biodiversity loss. We’d love John Olivier to come and visit our restoration sites.