Carbon Offset Scams Facing Broad Opposition

Ahead of the reintroduction of Growing Climate Solutions Act, farmers join with environmental justice, worker and clean energy advocates to oppose false climate solution

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Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC — As the Biden Administration gears up for a global climate summit and Congress begins negotiations on an infrastructure package, agricultural-based offsets for polluters are attracting considerable criticism as a false solution that will do little to reduce emissions. 

A cadre of organizations recently sent a letter to Congress, coordinated by Food & Water Watch, that focuses on the Growing Climate Solutions Act, legislation that would lay the foundation for a federally certified carbon offset program. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-7) are leading this effort in Congress, and are expected to reintroduce the bill in the days ahead. 

While supporters of the Growing Climate Solutions Act (including powerful fossil fuel and agribusiness interests) portray offsets as a win-win for farmers and the climate, critics point out that offsets undermine efforts to create a more sustainable and regenerative farming system, weaken efforts to address climate change and increase pollution in environmental justice communities while also not eliminating existing pollution at source..

“Family farmers must be part of any solution to the climate crisis, but are also justifiably dubious of relying upon corporate controlled market schemes to do so. Farmers have long been denied a fair (parity) price for their commodities due to price rigging by the food giants, and this same abuse will happen with carbon trading. Privatized pollution speculation is a false climate solution — a much better option is to encourage family farmers to switch towards more agroecological practices by expanding existing publicly funded conservation programs,” said John E. Peck Executive Director Family Farm Defenders.

Those opposed to the bill also outline existing USDA programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program that are oversubscribed, and with more funding could actually help build soil health, protect water quality, and avoid greenhouse gas emissions while boosting farm income. In addition to increasing funding for these programs, the groups point to the need to close loopholes that fund factory farming, which are inundating environmental justice and rural communities with air and water pollution and perpetuating dangerous occupational conditions for farmworkers. 

“Farmworker frontline communities bear the direct consequences and are the primary victims of the pollution caused by CAFOs and factory farms by diminishing air quality and often contaminating the water on which these communities rely for their daily needs,” said Nezahualcoyotl Xiuhtecutli, General Coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida.

The pollution concerns with offsets do not end with factory farming; as the letter points out, offsets are actually increasing pollution in environmental justice communities where power plants and other polluters are already relying on offsets to  continue the status quo.

“My water-rich, life giving homelands are under attack. A new oil pipeline by Enbridge Energy will carry nearly a million barrels of the world’s dirtiest oil through our tribal territories, threatening our traditional foods, our waters, our ways of life, in fact our very lives. And not just here in Northern Minnesota; the effects on the climate threaten the entire world. Enbridge’s Line 3 will contribute the equivalent of the carbon produced by 50 coal fired power plants, while being able to claim net-zero emissions through scams like carbon offsets,” said Simone Senogles, a member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and Indigenous Environmental Network.

Climate advocates have also voiced opposition to offsets, based on numerous studies that raise serious concerns about their actual impact on reducing emissions derived from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

“Offsets don’t stop climate change because they don’t stop emissions. The whole point of an offset is that one entity gets to keep emitting greenhouse gases. Major oil companies are claiming to be greening their operations by purchasing offsets, while at the same time expanding operations for the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels. That fact alone should leave no doubt that the emperor is truly naked. Offsets are not a climate solution and continued emissions lead to continued warming,” said Doreen Stabinsky, professor of global environmental politics, College of the Atlantic.

Contact: Jim Walsh, [email protected]