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Analysis Shows Over 90% of Rainforest Carbon Offsets from Largest Certifier Are Ineffective

David Altenschmidt and Dr. Fritz Keller

90% of all carbon offsets are fake!

“I have long believed that the most elegant way to drive innovation and to reduce carbon emissions is to put a price on it”, Barack Obama [1]

A majority of the carbon offsets that are supposed to prevent deforestation are actually not doing anything to protect the environment. A recent investigation by "The Guardian" has revealed that Verra, one of the largest companies certifying these offsets, has allowed the projects claiming to offset carbon emissions to count the same areas of forests multiple times. It has been revealed that the offsets they are providing worthless. This has raised major concerns about the efficacy of carbon offsetting schemes and the ability of companies to make meaningful progress in reducing their carbon footprint [2]. In this first part of our article series, we will discuss the problems associated with the current process of certifying carbon offsets.

In recent weeks many of Verra's [3] high-profile customers, have appeared, seeing themselves confronted with accusations of greenwashing. Most prominently, Shell [4], a major oil and gas company, has announced plans to spend $450 million on carbon offsetting, but there are concerns that this money may not be spent effectively and that the carbon credits purchased may be worthless. There is a fear that carbon offsetting is being used as a way to avoid taking meaningful action on climate change, and that companies like Shell are using it to (willingly or unwillingly) greenwash their image without actually reducing their emissions. There is also concern that carbon offsetting projects are not transparent and could be leading to negative consequences for the environment and local communities [5].

Other companies took actions by no longer advertising their products as carbon-neutral. One example is the German drugstore chain, Rossmann [6]. It has announced that it will no longer be advertising its products as "climate neutral." This follows a report from "Die Zeit" and "The Guardian" which revealed that many CO2 certificates that companies use to offset their emissions are in 90% not trustworthy. The report showed that forest protection certificates calculate CO2 savings based on a speculative assumption, and companies have been manipulating the data. This sparked harsh reactions from the government. The German Federal Ministry of Economics criticized the certificates, saying that "robust rules" were needed for voluntary offsetting [7].

The findings of this investigation have raised major questions about the efficacy of the carbon offsetting schemes and the ability of companies to make meaningful progress in reducing their carbon footprint in general. It is clear that there are serious flaws in the system and that more rigorous oversight is needed to ensure that credits are being used for projects that actually reduce emissions.

To conclude, the issue of carbon offsetting is complex, but it is becoming increasingly clear that companies need to take more responsibility for their emissions and ensure that their offsetting schemes are effective. This investigation has revealed the need for greater oversight and more rigorous standards to ensure that these schemes are actually delivering on their promises.

At the Center for Deep Tech Innovation, one of our fields of expertise is Green Tech and Sustainability. Trust in carbon capture processes is a hot topic and in the next article of this series, we will introduce shared audit trails, which can be used to tackle the current issues in the process of carbon offsetting and its certification.

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