At the United Nations climate summit COP 25 in Madrid, Spain international carbon markets, will take centre stage even though environmental advocacy groups warned that market-driven approaches to tackling the global emergency are an obstacle to real solutions to rein in emissions and making those most responsible for the crisis pay.
"Big polluters must be rubbing their hands in glee that carbon market mechanisms, which further dilute the already weak and inadequate Paris emissions targets, are back on the agenda," said Dipti Bhatnagar, Climate Justice and Energy Program coordinator for Friends of the Earth International, in a statement. FOEI's Bhatnagar in her statement. "Emissions are still rising. Now is not the time to offer an escape route to polluting Northern country governments and big oil...Carbon markets fail to deliver emissions reductions or adequate climate action and impact horrifically on Indigenous Peoples and local communities," Bhatnagar continued. "They only serve to strengthen corporate power and impunity, deflect responsibility from rich historical polluters, and prevent urgent and equitable action on climate change."
Climate groups have treated with suspicion carbon markets, whether they take the form of "cap and trade"—where one polluter can trade its surplus units of allowable carbon emissions to another polluter—or carbon offsetting—in which some activity is done to "offset" the carbon created a polluter.
In briefing paper last month, Friends of the Earth and other climate groups said that not only do carbon markets not work to adequately limit emissions, the market approaches can unleash harmful consequences for local and indigenous communities.
"Carbon markets operate on the false and unscientific assumption that offsetting emissions and selling permits to pollute will reduce global warming," the groups said. The briefing paper details a number of problems with the scheme, including that carbon prices are too low, the markets do nothing to remedy local impacts of fossil fuel projects, "offsetting" projects can lead to evictions of forest dwellers, and trading can allow fossil fuel companies—whose voices are uplifted over those of communities—a decade or more of time to continue planet-warming projects.
Global Justice Ecology Project and Biofuelwatch condemned the scheme as "commodification of the Earth" that enables "climate-destroying business as usual under the pretense of climate action."
Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts (OLCA), the Observatory of Mining Conflicts of Latin America (OCMAL) together with War on Want and Mining Watch Canada, declared:
"That national and transnational companies and governments, mainly of the industrialised North, are those truly responsible for environmental breakdown due to their extractive activities in search of capitalist accumulation and the promotion of consumerism; that the current discourse around the climate crisis places the blame on individual responsibility, thereby distracting the attention from those most responsible; that companies and extractivist governments are the ones who commit true criminal acts against all forms of life, violating Human Rights and the Rights of Nature; that the climate crisis, as part of an ecological crisis, is a condition of the capitalist world development model."
Youth climate leaders Greta Thunberg of Sweden, Luisa Neubauer of Germany, and Angela Valenzuela of Chile wrote Friday in an op-ed for Project Syndicate, "We have watched a string of United Nations climate conferences unfold," they continued. "Countless negotiations have produced much-hyped but ultimately empty commitments from the world's governments—the same governments that allow fossil-fuel companies to drill for ever-more oil and gas, and burn away our futures for their profit." The youths' message to those at the COP 25 "is simple: the eyes of all future generations are upon you. Act accordingly."