EU: Don't let big polluters off the hook. Say no to carbon offsets!

A single oak tree on a clearcut; in the background a pine plantation Reality of a CO2 compensation project in the Vienne region, France: While the natural deciduous forest was clear-cut except for a single oak tree, the pine plantation visible in the background was preserved (© Canopée) A small pine tree in the middle of a barren, stony area Reality from a CO2 compensation project in the Vienne region, France: a small pine tree sprouts on a barren clear-cut area (© Canopée) A truck with trailer  loaded with logs before a burned eucalyptus plantation Harvest of burned eucalyptus plantation in South Africa (© RdR/ Klaus Schenck)

The climate crisis is more urgent than ever. Yet the EU debate on rules for carbon removals is focused on carbon offsetting which will further fuel climate chaos. This false solution allows big polluters to avoid emissions reductions and distracts us from the urgent need for real, deep cuts. Tell the EU we need real solutions now!

News and updates Call to action

To: The European Parliament and Council

“Stop certifying CO2 offsets – it’s time for genuine change to reduce CO2 emissions quickly!”

Read letter

All sectors of the economy need to start reducing emissions now. Offsetting gives the illusion of action as it allows big polluters to continue business as usual as long as they pay someone else, somewhere else to claim to reduce their emissions for them. But many offsets have been shown to do more harm than good. They are therefore a dangerous distraction.

Many carbon offsets take the form of “nature-based solutions” – such as growing monoculture tree plantations or attempting to lock carbon temporarily in agricultural soils. Such projects often damage ecosystems and result in land grabs and human rights violations, negatively impacting Indigenous peoples, peasant farmers and foresters. Recent investigations have shown that they also rarely compensate for polluters’ emissions. 

Another dark side of carbon removals is geoengineering: technological approaches that tinker with the Earth’s ecosystems in an attempt to reduce some of the effects of climate change. Examples include capturing carbon dioxide and pumping it underground, or cutting and burning forests for energy and then capturing and storing the emissions. These processes are resource intensive, costly, haven't been proven at scale and put frontline communities disproportionately at risk of harm.

Despite the well-documented concerns, the EU is currently discussing a new law to certify the use of carbon removals as offsets. This would benefit carbon consultants rather than the EU or the planet and it would set a bad global precedent. 

We cannot afford to delay implementation of the real, just solutions we need: an equitably managed phase-out of fossil fuels; fair, democratic, sustainable renewable energy that prioritizes well-being over economic growth; support to farmers for an agroecological transition toward food sovereignty; close-to-nature forestry practices; and the redirection of public subsidies from the fossil fuel industry and false solutions toward the above measures.

Join us in demanding that the EU drops its Carbon Removals Certification Framework (CRCF) plans. 

Start of petition: 21/06/2023

Back­ground

What is the CRCF?

The European Commission submitted a legislative proposal in November 2022 to the European Parliament and the Council to establish a carbon removal certification framework (CRCF) for the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of removals. This is part of the European Climate Law (aiming to reach net zero by 2050). It would set up a regulatory process that provides government sanction and market confidence for removal offset credits to be sold in voluntary, and eventually compliance (i.e. mandatory), carbon markets. The objective is to provide incentives for more carbon removals across the EU and beyond.

Both so-called ‘nature-based solutions’ and technofixes fall under the proposed certification scheme. 

The CRCF risks:

  • enabling the continuation of the fossil economy by justifying new fossil fuel infrastructure
  • legitimizing and promoting global voluntary and compliance offset markets
  • enabling big agriculture and timber sectors to undermine biodiversity restoration, land rights and food sovereignty
  • misleading citizens, delaying real climate action and making it more likely that we will  overshoot the critical 1.5°C limit.

The problem with ‘nature-based solutions’ 

The fallacy of land-based removals, or ‘nature-based solutions’ has been exposed on numerous occasions. Recent investigations have confirmed what the science was already pointing out: offsets are not an alternative to emissions reductions. The scandal around the US organization Verra, which certifies carbon emissions reductions under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), uncovered that more than 90% of the carbon certifier’s rainforest offsets were worthless. This is because temporary ‘nature-based’ sequestration is not interchangeable with and cannot compensate for fossil emissions that stay in the atmosphere and contribute to warming for hundreds to thousands of years.

Other investigations show how easily major carbon market actors can exaggerate climate claims or inflate baselines by creating a false sense of deforestation risks. In addition, these land-based offsets have been linked to land grabs and human rights abuses, first and foremost impacting communities in the Global South, Indigenous peoples and small peasant farmers. To name just one example, a study found that a soil carbon project in Kenya not only overestimated the amount of carbon emissions saved, it also resulted in the grabbing of Indigenous peoples’ land and the erasure of their ancestral practices.

The problem with technofixes

Geoengineering, or technofixes, are fossil fuel industry attempts to come up with technologies that could remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They include processes such as Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (or BECCS) and Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (or DACCS)

The first problem with these technofixes is that they are unproven: There are presently no ‘negative emissions’ technologies that work or are viable at scale.

In addition, these processes come with disproportionate economic, social and environmental costs and risks. The proposed technologies are extremely expensive and require a huge amount of resources such as water and land that are increasingly scarce, therefore threatening biodiversity and food sovereignty across the world. They pose enormous risks to our communities, including upholding human and Indigenous rights.

Real Zero

Europe has a huge historical responsibility toward the Global South to support a just transition and to rapidly bring emissions down to Real Zero at home. We know what Real Zero looks like: a just and equitably managed phase-out of fossil fuels; an energy transformation to real, fair, democratic and sustainable renewable energy that prioritizes well-being over economic growth; support for small-scale farmers and a just transition of food and agricultural systems toward agroecology for food sovereignty; close-to-nature forestry; and the redirection of public subsidies away from fossil fuels to support these measures.

Getting to Real Zero and staying below 1.5°C of warming requires rejecting any European Commission proposal for certifying carbon removal offsets in a failed carbon market. It requires halting emissions and restoring ecosystems now.

More than 200 climate, environmental, economic justice, human rights and food sovereignty organizations from around the globe support Real Zero Europe. Together they aim to campaign to scrap the European Commission’s carbon removal certification law, to resist Europe’s ‘net zero’ false solutions, and to apply pressure on the EU and European nations to take action now toward real, deep emissions cuts.

For more information see www.realsolutions-not-netzero.org

We call on EU decision-makers to firmly reject the offset approach. True zero is urgently needed and big emitters must not be given a get-out-of-jail card. Keeping our planet’s climate within a relatively safer degree of warming requires real, just, and immediate reductions. A strategy to overshoot 1.5°C and then achieve temporary removals through currently non-existent technologies is a strategy that will lead to climate disaster.

Letter

To: The European Parliament and Council

Dear Members of the European Parliament and Representatives of the Council,

Climate change is accelerating into irreversible climate chaos, making the need for a radical, equitable and just transformation of our economies more pressing than ever. There is no time to waste, and there are no more dead ends we can revisit. 

We therefore urge you to reject any European Commission proposal for certifying carbon removal offsets on the grounds that the carbon market has failed. 

Offsetting has proven to be a dangerous misstep on the path to emission reductions and a zero-carbon economy. It can be seen as a get-out-of-jail card for big polluters, regardless of whether it is “nature-based solutions” that ignore social and environmental concerns and can't guarantee long-term carbon storage, or future technological removals that are unproven and pose unacceptable threats to our communities and ecosystems. 

Scientists have pointed out the dangers inherent in offsetting numerous times, yet the EU is currently discussing a law to certify carbon removals and create credits that could be traded in carbon offset markets. This would allow companies to deny responsibility for past emissions and continue fueling the climate crisis, while enabling financiers to gamble with climate chaos in the name of speculative profits.

We, the undersigned, ask you to firmly reject offsetting in EU policy. It’s time to put an end to the distraction and destruction of “carbon removal technologies” and “nature-based solutions”. It’s time to accept that our house is on fire. It’s time for absolute emissions reductions. It’s time for Real Zero.

Yours faithfully,

News and updates

News · Dec 15, 2023

Indonesia: Carbon trading scheme threatens Aru Islands

Graphic of crowd with "Save Aru" banner, ocean and ships in background

Carbon traders want to exploit one of the last intact rainforests on the Aru Islands between Australia and New Guinea. The #SaveAru coalition, of which Rainforest Rescue is a member, is calling on the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry to stop the licensing process.

more

News · Oct 19, 2023

Brazil: Deception and abuse with carbon offsetting projects in the Amazon rainforest

In Portel in the Amazon region, carbon traders have apparently illegally sold credits for rainforest areas that are state property and inhabited by local communities. The operators allegedly failed to carry out effective studies in the forest areas, deceived the local people and “compensated” them with worthless gifts.

more

News · Sep 21, 2023

Carbon credits: Don’t let big emitters off the hook!

When it comes to climate protection, many companies do not rely on cutting emissions alone: They buy themselves carbon credits from rainforest protection projects – effectively a license to pollute. Yet these certificates rarely benefit the climate or the forests and reduce net emissions much less than claimed. The EU now wants to legitimize such transactions by certifying offsetting measures.

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Footnotes

Recent investigationsThe Guardian 2023. Revealed: more than 90% of rainforest carbon offsets by biggest certifier are worthless, analysis shows: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jan/18/revealed-forest-carbon-offsets-biggest-provider-worthless-verra-aoe


pumping it undergroundCIEL 2021. Confronting the Myth of Carbon-Free Fossil Fuels: Why Carbon Capture Is Not a Climate Solution: https://www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Confronting-the-Myth-of-Carbon-Free-Fossil-Fuels.pdf



US organization VerraThe Guardian 2023. Revealed: more than 90% of rainforest carbon offsets by biggest certifier are worthless, analysis shows: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jan/18/revealed-forest-carbon-offsets-biggest-provider-worthless-verra-aoe


exaggerate climate claimsCarbon Herald 2023. South Pole Faces Accusations Due To Exaggerated Carbon Offsets Claims – Bloomberg: https://carbonherald.com/south-pole-faces-accusations-due-to-exaggerated-carbon-offsets-claims-bloomberg/


false sense of deforestation risksCarbon Market Warch 2021. Two Shades of Green: HOW HOT AIR FOREST CREDITS ARE BEING USED TO AVOID CARBON TAXES IN COLOMBIA: https://carbonmarketwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Two-shades-of-green_EN_WEB.pdf




huge historical responsibilityFanning, A.L., Hickel, J. Compensation for atmospheric appropriation. Nat Sustain (2023). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-023-01130-8

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