Rainforest carbon credit schemes misleading, ineffective: Report
New research has revealed that rainforest conservation programs are not suited for carbon offsetting and that a different approach is required to properly maintain crucial ecosystems.
According to a new study from the UC Berkeley Carbon Trading Project, rainforest carbon credits certified by Verra, which maintains the world's leading carbon standard, are unfit for use.
The study details how it produces substantially overstated environmental consequences and how some projects fail to offer safeguards for endangered forest communities, making them inappropriate for firms to utilize for carbon offsetting claims since they are not equal to fossil fuel emissions.
Stopping the loss of the world's rainforests is an essential priority for fulfilling UN climate and biodiversity objectives, and advocates of carbon markets claim that if they perform as intended, they may devote billions of dollars to climate change and biodiversity mitigation.
Companies and individuals claim that their own emissions have been offset by paying for greenhouse gas removal or reductions elsewhere, particularly in underdeveloped nations.
This year, Walt Disney, JP Morgan Bank, and other prominent corporations have been accused of acquiring carbon credits from forest protection projects in places where deforestation was not genuinely a threat.
Mechanism of obtaining credits vulnerable to manipulation
However, a new review by a team of 14 UC Berkeley academics, financed by the NGO Carbon Market Watch, showed that the present mechanism of obtaining rainforest preservation carbon credits was inadequate and vulnerable to manipulation.
The researchers examined five quality criteria of Verra's rainforest carbon credit system, known as Redd+ projects: their longevity, forest carbon accounting, community protections, deforestation leakage, and baselines, discovering extensive flaws in all categories.
It was found that the majority of credits had no beneficial impact on the climate, that projects had understated the danger of moving deforestation elsewhere, and that auditors frequently failed to implement Verra's own guidelines for earning credits.
Barbara Haya, the director of the Berkeley Carbon Trading project who led the report, stated, “Our research shows that the project type with the most credits on the voluntary carbon market, avoided deforestation, generates highly inflated credits that put forest communities at risk. An entirely different approach is needed to reduce deforestation and cut emissions."
The report noted that the focus should be on reducing the causes of deforestation around the world and assisting Indigenous communities in conserving forests, with companies supporting a contributing approach to rainforest conservation rather than purchasing offsets.
Verra responded that it was "committed to transparency" and that many of the flaws raised in the paper will be addressed in the revised methodology for producing carbon credits, which will be published in the coming weeks.
Multiple companies have removed themselves from offsetting claims as an earlier investigation reported on by The Guardian indicated that rainforest carbon offsets were futile.
Inigo Wyburd, a policy expert on global carbon markets at Carbon Market Watch, stated that the research sheds light on the lack of credibility regarding carbon credits.
Gilles Dufrasne, policy lead on global carbon markets for CMW, expressed that offsetting "should be axed," detailing that it could not work in its current form.