Carbon Credits: Criticisms
For all the good carbon credits can do, critics raise some valid points that should be acknowledged. As with anything, the carbon credit system can be manipulated, misused and abused. So if you are interested in buying carbon credits to offset your emissions for your home or business (carbon credits known as carbon "offsets") it is imperative you bring to the table your greenest of intentions and the research necessary to ensure the validity of your carbon offset purchases.
- Carbon Credits Are Just Permits to Pollute
- Carbon Credits Support Projects that Would Have Happened Anyway
- Carbon Credits Support Projects that Aren't Permanent
Carbon Credits Are Just Permits to Pollute
The United States infamously has no federal cap-and-trade system. And in light of the 2010 mid-term elections, it is safe to say we will not see a federal cap-and-trade system any time soon. In other words, unless you are affected by a regional- or state-regulated carbon market, in the U.S. you are not bound by any obligation to limit your emissions at all. However, a voluntary carbon market exists through which any individual or business may purchase offsets so as to theoretically achieve zero emissions or "carbon neutrality." The criticism is this. Instead of aggressively changing behaviors that emit CO2 and other emissions in the first place, people and companies achieve a feel-good-green state simply by buying carbon offsets. Sure, the purchase of these offsets funds projects that "reduce, avoid, destroy or sequester" carbon dioxide so that it cannot enter the atmosphere. But it sort of defeats the purpose if and when offset purchasers are emitting at home and at work to their hearts' content.
For this reason, we cannot stress enough the importance of buying carbon offsets as the final step in the greening of your home or business. Go through everything with a fine tooth comb; our Green Checklist can help. Return to Top
Carbon Credits Support Projects that Would Have Happened Anyway
All carbon credits are not created equal, particularly in this regard. And if you're not careful, you could end up supporting a project that is "business-as-usual" which isn't offsetting anything at all. Unfortunately, there are a number of schemes out there that take advantage of people who don't understand the difference. That's why it is so important that you only purchase carbon offsets that are "additional", meaning the project you are supporting - to keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere - would not have happened without your help. Return to Top
Carbon Credits Support Projects that Aren't Permanent
When most people think of carbon credit projects, planting trees comes to mind. However, it is the implied impermanence of trees that invites criticism. Just because you support a reforestation project in a developing country does not ensure that, one day, those trees won't be cut down. That's a problem because the value of this type of offset is based on how much CO2 will theoretically be absorbed by the trees over the course of their lifetime. This is a valid point and, if it's one that concerns you, choose another type of carbon offset project, like capturing methane from landfills. You do have choices.