climate change development energy film social justice

Offsetting gone wrong

A couple of months ago I expressed my interest in offsetting the carbon emissions I can’t cut, clearing the decks as best I can at the end of the year. I still intend to do so, and am looking into how best to do it. Not all offsetting schemes are created equal, as The Ecologist reminds us with this short investigative film. Through a frankly bizarre loophole, this Indian coal power station is part of the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism, and will be able to profit from selling offset credits.


  1. I’m wanting to plant some 30 trees next early spring, but never have money. You can pay me and I’ll plant, photograph and name them all individually! 😉

  2. The UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is a classic example of the Law of Unintended Consequences. See this: (Credits for five massive coal fired power stations – four in India, one in China). An extract:

    “Total carbon dioxide emissions from the five projects, based on data from project design documents, over the 10-year crediting period is 673 million metric tons. That compares with the total annual greenhouse gas emissions of Australia at less than 600 million metric tons.”

    Probably worse are the credits available for destroying powerful greenhouse gases such as HFC-23 (11,700 times more powerful than CO2). The subsidies available are so high that it seems production has actually been increased to take advantage of CDM – a total absurdity.

    Moreover, the combination of the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (another disaster) and the UN’s CDM actually encourages the export rather than cutting of emissions. As a business is rewarded for improving the emissions intensity of its activities in the developing world and punished for carrying out exactly the same activities in the developed world, the incentive (a double reward) for exporting a high emission business (such as steel manufacture) is obvious. So the UK, for example, loses its industry (and jobs) and its taxpayer pays for the privilege. In the meantime, the financiers and middlemen are (as always) making massive profits.

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