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Credibility of project-based offsetting in tatters

Over the weekend there was news that a company called SGS was suspended by the United Nations from its role as an auditor of carbon offset projects. SGS had been appointed by the UN to check that offsetting projects were being set up properly and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The UN did a spot check and found a number of discrepancies at the company. It’s not the first time this has happened – a similar company called DNV was suspended last year for failing to carry out its job properly. These companies play a vital role in the formal carbon offsetting system – they provide the assurance that projects actually exist and are delivering environmental benefits. In such a complex market this type of assurance is crucial – otherwise buyers’ money can disappear into the network of middle men, consultants and brokers.

While the system can be tightened up to some extent, the concept of funding environmental projects by selling carbon credits is tricky because it depends on a complex network of intermediaries and advisers. In the best scenario, this network carries a heavy administrative burden. In the worst scenario, parts of the network can fail to do their job or even act fraudulently.

Fortunately, there are better ways to approach carbon offsetting. Retirement of EU Emission Allowances does not rely on project consultants and auditors – it simply reduces the amount of carbon dioxide that can be released by European industry. It creates long-term behavioural change and ultimately reduces our dependence on fossil fuels, moving us more swiftly to a low carbon economy. It won’t solve climate change alone, but making sure your money does something worthwhile and your business isn’t exposed to the risk of this sort of controversy is a good place to start.

Read the full Sunday Times article

Posted by Jane Burston, Director at Carbon Retirement

About Carbon Retirement

Carbon Retirement works by removing pollution permits from Europes emission trading scheme, which cuts the volume of carbon dioxide European industry can emit. This forces investment in low carbon technology and provides a reliable alternative to carbon offsetting. For more information, visit

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