A report by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) says that voluntary carbon markets remain ineffective and risk delaying net-zero carbon emission targets. 

According to the CCC, an independent organisation established by the UK government, offsets can mask companies’ “insufficient efforts” to cut emissions.

In a recent report, the committee reviewed the impact of voluntary carbon markets and offsetting. It says that better supervision would ensure the carbon credit market maintains high integrity, and urges companies to lower their emissions before turning to offsets.

Carbon offsetting enables companies to compensate for pollution by acquiring credits on carbon markets. These come from global initiatives that prevent greenhouse gas emissions, via methods such as tree planting or nature restoration programs.

Chris Stark, chief executive of CCC, said: “Poor-quality offsets [crowd] out high-integrity ones. Businesses face confusion over the right approach to take.”

The report reads: “Many businesses have named net-zero dates, but achieving them through an over-reliance on offsets is undermining the economy-wide transition.”

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At the same time, the CCC says that voluntary carbon markets can help provide capital for areas that need funding. Some governmental policies can direct private investment towards new forestry and peatland restoration. 

A business or organisation should only be considered to be net-zero when it has reduced its emissions as far as possible to be at or close to zero and permanently removed CO2 from the atmosphere to compensate for any remaining emissions, the CCC report said.

It goes on to say that the government should continue strengthening its existing carbon credit requirements in the UK and influence and push for higher global standards. 

Stark said, “There is a clear need for governments to [strengthen] standards and point businesses towards an approach that prioritises real emissions reduction ahead of offsetting. Those businesses [supporting] the economy-wide transition to net-zero should get the credit they deserve.”