a system that really works and really delivers on its promises.”
Verra, the world’s leading carbon standard for the rapidly growing $2bn (£1.6bn) voluntary offsets market, has been found to have issued more than 1bn carbon credits, many of which are likely to be “phantom credits” and not represent genuine carbon reductions. This research has raised questions over the credits bought by a number of internationally renowned companies, some of which have labelled their products “carbon neutral”. A nine-month investigation by the Guardian, the German weekly Die Zeit and SourceMaterial, a non-profit investigative journalism organisation, found that only a handful of Verra’s rainforest projects showed evidence of deforestation reductions, with two studies indicating that 94% of the credits had no benefit to the climate. The threat to forests had been overstated by about 400% on average for Verra projects. The journalists analysed the findings of three scientific studies that used satellite images to check the results of a number of forest offsetting projects, known as Redd+ schemes. These studies found that, while a number of projects had stopped some deforestation, the areas were extremely small. The journalists compared the estimates made by the offsetting projects with the results obtained by the scientists and found that, in 32 projects where it was possible to compare Verra’s claims with the study finding, baseline scenarios of forest loss appeared to be overstated by about 400%. Verra strongly disputed the studies’ conclusions about its rainforest projects, arguing that the methods the scientists used cannot capture the true impact on the ground, and that it works with leading experts to continuously update its methodologies. The findings have raised serious questions for companies that are depending on offsets as part of their net zero strategies. Researchers have argued that urgent changes are needed to finance rainforest conservation, as the evidence suggests that the current system is not effective in reducing climate change.
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