Pictures from the Carbon "Offset" Market

by Larry Lohmann

first published 5 September 2007

Trading in carbon "offsets" constitutes one part of carbon trading schemes such as those associated with the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, the Kyoto Protocol, and voluntary schemes to "compensate" for airline passengers' emissions and the like. (The other part of carbon trading is emissions trading.)

As this slide show illustrates, "offset" trading selects against immediate investment in long-term structural change away from fossil fuel dependence in both South and North. It does not recognize or support communities engaging in effective action on climate change. It carries high opportunity costs and requires heavy, complex and unaccountable bureaucracy and centralization. Its climatic effects are impossible to measure, meaning that on balance it is likely to damage the fight for a livable climate, and it is rife with other irresoluble enforcement obstacles.