Nonprofit news agencies Mongabay and New Humanitarian published a joint report released Wednesday that debunks the United Nations’ outlandish claims of “climate neutrality.”
What the UN is actually doing, according to the report, is buying millions of dollars’ worth of “carbon credits” to “offset” its substantial emissions. Some of the projects supposedly “offsetting” UN emissions actually harm the environment and even human health.
“Carbon credits” are essentially a shell game in which carbon emitters buy “permits” to release more carbon dioxide from industries that are supposed to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Environmental regulations have turned the carbon credit market into a grotesque billion-dollar “industry” that actually produces nothing – it just shuffles paperwork so agencies and companies can pretend they are ” carbon neutral”, even if their emissions are still prodigious.
Some climate activists are becoming a little skeptical of the carbon credit industry, which theoretically helps clean up the atmosphere by subsidizing carbon reduction projects that otherwise might not be profitable. The report cites Doctors Without Borders as an example of an organization that has completely renounced carbon credits.
In practice, as Mongabay and New Humanitarian assert, some of these carbon credits “do not meet high standards,” and the UN is doing the climate movement a disservice by purchasing questionable credits and setting a bad example:
Around 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions, while a recent study of the climate neutrality claims of 25 multinationals found most were overstated. British Airways and Delta Air Lines, for example, have faced particularly harsh criticism over their claims.
Yet climate researchers and environmental advocates say the U.N.’s offset practices undermine its leadership in efforts to slow the pace of global warming.
In addition to overseeing several climate treaties, the UN also helps governments meet their climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, by organizing the annual COP climate conferences. This year’s COP28 begins on November 30 in Dubai.
The UN uses carbon credit sleight of hand to claim that it has been almost carbon neutral since 2018 – even though its agencies actually emit carbon dioxide “roughly equal to the annual emissions of 1. 5 million gasoline cars.
The only recent year in which the UN significantly reduced its actual emissions, rather than purchasing carbon credits to “offset” them, was during the pandemic year of 2020. The Mongabay/New report Humanitarian suggests that UN emissions are not actually decreasing because they continue to decline. hire more staff, who tend to generate a lot of carbon while traveling.
The New Humanitarian also referenced its own 2021 research to argue that the UN simply fails to account for much of its emissions when calculating its so-called “carbon neutrality”, as does a dieter who decides calories from Friday night pizza and beer. not counted.
Tracking down dubious U.N. carbon credit claims has proven to be grueling work for investigators, as the U.N. is “largely exempt from regulatory oversight” and does not go out of its way to answer skeptical journalists’ questions about its practices. Dozens of entities selling carbon credits to the UN declined to answer questions about their practices or said they did not have the documentation to respond in detail.
Mongabay and New Humanitarian were able to determine that more than 350,000 carbon credits purchased by the UN over the past decade came from projects “linked to reports of environmental destruction, forced displacement or health problems in communities close to the projects. such as a waste-to-energy plant in India that was emitting harmful air pollution.
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has purchased thousands of carbon credits from a Brazilian hydroelectric plant accused of destroying forests and harming biodiversity. In fact, one study found that the plant’s deforestation more than erased the environmental benefits that would have allowed it to sell carbon credits.
The report cites studies revealing that many other hydro and wind projects selling carbon credits to the UN did not meet current standards – and that very few of these projects actually met the emissions reduction targets claimed to justify the sale of credits.
“I don’t know why the UN would continue to buy wind and hydropower,” sighed Joe Romm, a climate researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.
Romm pointed out that the UN has a history of buying huge volumes of cheap, low-quality carbon credits – the equivalent of junk climate change bonds. The sheer size of the multibillion-dollar carbon credit industry has attracted some dubious operators, and the cost of approving these credits adds to their already enormous cost.
Bloomberg News reported in June that a “major showdown is brewing over what counts as a carbon credit,” with the UN under intense pressure to set higher standards that would significantly reduce the profits of this lucrative industry.
Bloomberg noted that carbon offsets are currently a $2 billion industry, but are expected to reach a staggering $160 billion to $624 billion by mid-century, and a thousand billion money is not out of the question.