Dave Penney

Pendle Climate Action Group

I was alarmed to find out that the Pendle Climate Emergency Motion commits the Council to achieve a target of carbon neutrality and not net zero carbon by 2030. 

Carbon Neutrality involves carbon offsets. A carbon offset is a credit that a person or organisation can buy to decrease its carbon footprint. When the number of carbon offset credits obtained is equal to an individual or organisation’s carbon footprint, that person or organization is ‘carbon neutral’.

The carbon credit offset system is flawed and discredited and will not achieve a rapid reduction in the carbon footprint for the following seven reasons:

1. Carbon offsets are difficult to measure and quantify – Carbon offsetting relies on the assumption that an equivalent (or greater) amount of CO2 is being removed than the amount being produced. But in most cases, carbon offsetting projects overestimate their impact.

2. Some carbon offset projects would have happened anyway – they need to be in addition to ongoing environmental plans happening in the world.

3. Carbon offsetting doesn’t start to work soon enough – Given the urgency of the climate crisis, many carbon offsetting critics argue that measures, such as planting trees (the most popular type of carbon offsetting) won’t help reduce emissions soon enough.

4. Most carbon offset schemes don’t last, especially reforestation projects – In order to have an impact on the environment, a carbon offsetting measure needs to last. But unfortunately, a lot of carbon offsetting schemes don’t stand the test of time.

5. Carbon offsetting is often used as an excuse to not reduce emissions –  Unfortunately, carbon offsetting is seen by many as a free pass to not focus on reducing emissions

Pendle Hill Landscape - pic from Dave Penney, PCAG

6. Most carbon offset schemes shift the responsibility onto the lowest emitters – A lot of carbon offsetting projects shift the burden of responsibility from wealthy developed countries – who produce the most emissions – to low-emitting developing countries.

7. Carbon offset schemes can harm local populations – The unethical nature of some large carbon offsetting schemes should also make us question their worth. Carbon offset projects – often funded by the wealthier countries around the globe – can sometimes harm local indigenous communities, resulting in violent conflicts, food insecurity, and displacement.

In the light of these criticisms, I hope the Pendle Climate Emergency Working Group will recommend that the Council should commit to the target of net zero carbon by 2030, particularly as the present methodology of carbon neutrality and carbon credits will not achieve a rapid reduction in the overall carbon footprint by 2030.