The appeal is obvious. We can all be “carbon neutral” and offset our CO emissions, cancelling out the damage we do to the planet by protecting a threatened rainforest.
The claim is often based on carbon credits approved by Verra, the world’s leading certifier for the $2bn (£1.6bn) voluntary offsets market. Disney, Gucci and Shell are just some of the names that use them, and they are presented as a “nature-based solution”. However, there are big questions about the ability of offsetting to play even a minor role in climate change and biodiversity loss mitigation.
Verra has said it will phase out and replace its rainforest offsets programme by mid-2025 after an investigation found it was flawed, potentially allowing tens of millions of worthless carbon credits to be issued and sold to companies in the meantime.
The investigation indicated that many claims based on the rainforest credits, which are generated by predicting deforestation that would have happened in the absence of the conservation projects, were largely meaningless, putting organisations that buy the offsets at risk of greenwashing.