Study shows carbon offsets, by forest protection, used by major…


Study shows carbon offsets, by forest protection, used by major…

Study shows carbon offsets, by forest protection, used by major airlines are based on flawed system
2021-05-04 13:50:00
An investigation by the Guardian and Greenpeace’s Unearthed has found that the forest protection carbon offsetting market used by major airlines for claims of carbon-neutral flying faces a significant credibility problem, with experts warning the system is not fit for purpose.  Air passengers can buy offsets that, allegedly, help prevent the emission of a quantity of carbon, so they can claim their flight was “carbon neutral”.  The theory is that money is needed for projects to keep intact areas of forest healthy, and prevent deforestation. That depends on knowing how much forest there was, how much would have been destroyed unless the offset money had been paid, and how much has been saved in good condition. In practice, that is not easy to calculate. The study found there is often considerable over-counting, with schemes saying there would have been far higher rates of deforestation than were likely. And some of the areas that remained forested did so for other reasons – like government policy – not the offset money. If forestry offsets are to be used, it is vital that the methodologies they use to calculate the reduction in emissions are rigorous and accurate. .Tweet Carbon offsets used by major airlines based on flawed system, warn experts Guardian investigation finds carbon credits generated by forest protection schemes are based on flawed system By Patrick Greenfield  @pgreenfielduk Tue 4 May 2021 Also by Greenpeace’s Unearthed The forest protection carbon offsetting market used by major airlines for claims of carbon-neutral flying faces a significant credibility problem, with experts warning the system is not fit for purpose, an investigation has found. Money from carbon offsets can provide vital financial support for projects seeking to protect and restore some of the most beautiful threatened ecosystems around the world. Given that nature-based solutions can make a significant contribution to the climate mitigation needed to stabilise global heating, a functioning finance channel will be important for climate change progress, and particularly for developing countries. But a joint investigation into the offsetting schemes used by some of the world’s largest airlines carried out by the Guardian and Unearthed, Greenpeace’s investigative arm, found that although many forest projects were doing valuable conservation work, the credits that they generated by preventing environmental destruction appear to be based on a flawed and much-criticised system, even though these credits were being used to back up claims of “carbon-neutral flying” and net-zero commitments. We looked at 10 forest protection schemes that airlines were using before the pandemic which had been accredited by Verra, a US nonprofit which administers the world’s leading carbon credit standard, VCS (Verified Carbon Standard). Projects estimate the emissions they have prevented by predicting how much deforestation and land clearing would have occurred without them. The reductions are then sold on as credits. We found their predictions were often inconsistent with previous levels of deforestation in the area and in some cases, the threat to the trees may have been overstated. Beyond that, there are concerns about the inherent problem of looking into the future and predicting which trees would and would not have been felled, and of proving additionality – that the project itself made a difference to the outcome – which have dogged the offset system from its outset. Although there has been work to address this fundamental issue, we found that concerns remained. The findings have been fiercely criticised by Verra, who maintain the methods they endorse have contributed to the fight against climate change and deforestation, and transformed local economies for the better. Thales West, a scientist and former project auditor, led a study on schemes in the Brazilian Amazon that found that projects had routinely overstated their emissions reductions. He said that the methodologies “are not robust enough” which means “there is room for projects to generate credits that have no impact on the climate whatsoever”. Arild Angelsen, a professor of economics at Norwegian University of Life Sciences and a specialist in Redd+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation), said that although Verra methodologies for claiming credits were a serious attempt to measure emission reductions from reducing deforestation, they were not currently robust enough. Britaldo Soares-Filho, a deforestation modelling expert and professor at the institute of geosciences at the Federal University of Minas Gerais told the Guardian that under the current system, calculating genuine emission reductions relied on being able to accurately predict the future. “Models are not crystal balls. Models are a sign to help devise policy and evaluate policy choices.” Land use software that he designed, Dinamica EGO, is frequently used by projects to predict where deforestation would have taken place. Soares-Filho said, in his experience, projects have a tendency to inflate threats to the forest and current modelling approaches result in “phantom carbon credits”. Alexandra Morel, an ecosystem scientist at the University of Dundee who was involved in setting up one of the 10 projects in question, believes it was difficult to judge if the emission reductions claimed by projects were real. “It’s impossible to prove a counterfactual,” she said. “Rather than just valuing what forests are actually there, which are actively providing a carbon sink or store right now, we have to surmise which forests would still be here versus which ones are the bonus forests that were spared from the theoretical axe.” Margaret Kim, the CEO of Gold Standard, another organisation that certifies carbon offsets, told the Guardian and Unearthed that her organisation did not certify Redd+ projects because she believed the way it was set up did not work. “A project can actually cherrypick proxy areas. So a reference region can be set u

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