The SEC Must Not Legitimize Fake ‘Carbon Offsets’
Later this month, the SEC will release its “climate disclosure rule,” which could be a turning point for the carbon offset “market,” which is presently a dumpster fire of accounting fraud, lies, and moral hazard:
It’s not clear whether the Commission will actually tackle offsets, and if they do, it’s not clear whether they’ll do so well. Certainly, the business lobby has pulled out all the stops to make sure that offsets remain a tool for greenwashing and carbon laundering.
But they really should act. As The Revolving Door Project’s Dylan Gyauch-Lewis and Hannah Story Brown write in “The Industry Agenda: Carbon Offsets,” if the unregulated securities sold as “offsets” actually do anything to forestall the climate apocalypse, it’s largely coincidental.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s paid attention. “Charities” like The Nature Conservancy have brought in $932m from selling “offsets” to plunderers like JP Morgan that don’t offset anything. For example, the Conservancy generated $2m worth of offsets for announcing it wouldn’t log the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association’s 2,380 acres of Pennsylvania forest. But that forest was already a conservancy, and would never have been logged. The Conservancy’s pledge not to log it did nothing to reduce the Earth’s carbon emergency.
This is by design. The Conservancy pioneered greenwashing. As Conservancy president Patrick Noonan quipped, “The only problem with tainted money is there tain’t enough of it.”
Even where offsets do have a credible claim of reducing the amount of carbon likely to be emitted, that claim is brittle and contingent. Last summer’s Bootleg Fire in Oregon consumed vast carbon offset forests, releasing carbon that someone had paid not to release: