Friends of the Earth U.K. explain that businesses and the fossil fuel industry are engaging in "a dangerous distraction" by advocating a scheme known as carbon offsetting while continuing activities that are worsening the climate emergency.
Its report A dangerous distraction—the offsetting con takes issue with both the more commonly known practice of carbon offsetting as well as biodiversity offsetting. FOE explains:
"Carbon offsetting is touted as a way to compensate for continuing fossil fuel emissions by reducing emissions elsewhere or drawing them down using trees, etc. As well as carbon offsetting, businesses and governments are also promoting biodiversity offsetting. This is where harming nature in one place is in theory compensated by restoring nature elsewhere."
"The real and credible solutions to the environmental emergencies we face are clear," the report states. "We must rapidly stop using fossil fuels. And we must fund the proper protection, conservation, and restoration of nature." It continues, " The best way to prevent the heating of our planet is to end the use of fossil fuels for good. Yet offsetting is being used as an excuse to continue using these climate-wrecking fuels."
Carbon offsets are relatively cheap, the report says, and "will remain cheaper than cutting carbon emissions in the decade the world needs to reduce emissions to stay within safe limits," even if projects' ability to lock up carbon over the long term is not guaranteed.
To try and square the circle of selling fossil fuels and being carbon neutral, BP has bought a major carbon offset company, Finite Carbon, which it claims "has the potential to build a global platform for managing and financing natural climate solutions." Finite Carbon already specializes in forest carbon offsets in the USA, where forests are now increasingly ravaged by wildfires and pests, in a real-life demonstration of how temporarily carbon may be locked up in trees.
The overall offsetting scheme leads to a situation that corporations can delay real action to change their planet-heating practices. Simply put, offsetting lets "politicians and business leaders avoid confronting the reality of climate breakdown and nature decline, and continue with business as usual and the latest kind of greenwashing instead," the report states.
Destroying one tract of nature cannot simply be remedied by restoring or creating another.
An example is mining giant Rio Tinto's activities in Madagascar.
"Rio Tinto's QMM ilmenite mine is destroying 6,000 hectares of littoral forest along the southeast coastline, while claiming it will leave a net-positive impact on biodiversity. To do this, its offsetting programme has acquired three forest areas in what has been considered a double land grab. Some of the area is already protected under a national conservation program, and in Antsotso the offset has resulted in loss of forest access, traditional livelihoods, and food security. Villagers living on less than a dollar a day are criminalized if they cut a tree to replace a dug-out canoe for fishing. Mineral extraction accounts for most of the forest loss in the region, and some of the poorest people on the planet are carrying the cost of greening Rio Tinto' mine"
Carbon Offsets Are Nothing But a 'Dangerous' Con Job, Warns Climate Group (commondreams.org)
As with all their business practices, capitalists seek options without cost to them and invent solutions to suit their balance sheets.
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