Carbon Credit Watch

Carbon offset companies: the new snake oil salesmen?

Brady Yauch
Probe International
April 22, 2010

Buyers of voluntary carbon credits take note: you might be a victim of environmental fraud. A recent investigation by the Christian Science Monitor (CSM) and the New England Centre for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) found that the burgeoning $700-million market for voluntary carbon credits has been selling credits backed by empty promises rather than tangible environmental benefits.

The investigation discovered that the carbon market has become a haven for middlemen of green schemes “that range from selling protection for existing trees to the promise of planting new ones that never thrive.”

These carbon credits are backed by no rules or regulatory oversight, the report says. The lack of oversight means there is no enforcement of the environmental claims, no reliable way to measure the carbon savings being sold and no guarantee that the planted trees or other projects will ever actually produce their stated claims.

The report notes that critics of the voluntary carbon credit market liken it to a “Wild West” market—riddled with fraud, exaggeration and poorly planned projects. One forest conservationist and investigator for Greenpeace claimed that at least 75 percent of these credits are “garbage.”

The industry is also clouded in secrecy. Ecosystem Marketplace, a U.S.-based non-profit that specializes in providing information and data on environmental markets, says the industry “resembles the Wall Street of the 1800s—with information closely guarded by those who profit from it.”

The investigation by CSM and NECIR provides a disturbing list of cases of deception and lack of accountability in the carbon market. Read the full story here. [PDF]

And, for more analysis of why the carbon markets will always defy regulation and be “a fraudster’s dream come true” see the articles here and here by Probe International.

For more of a policy look at the problems facing the carbon markets, read all of the coverage from Probe International.

Further reading from Probe International:

Further Reading from the CSM and NECIR investigation:

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