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Challenges and Accusations Toward REDD+ Carbon Offsets

REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) carbon offsets have faced several challenges and accusations in recent years:

  1. Ineffectiveness: Studies have found that a significant percentage of the carbon credits from REDD+ projects do not represent real reductions in carbon emissions. One study found that about 94% of the credits from the projects they looked at don’t represent real reductions in carbon emissions.
  2. Human Rights Issues: There have been concerns about the impact of REDD+ projects on indigenous rights. Activists have warned of land grabs or “carbon grabs” — where governments invoke Article 6 to justify the weakening of land tenure rights for Indigenous people.
  3. Quality and Fragmentation: The market has faced challenges related to offset quality and fragmentation.


Corrective Actions Taken by Organizations

In response to these challenges, organizations like VERRA and project creators have taken several corrective actions:

  1. Overhauling Standards: VERRA, the world’s largest carbon credit certifier, has stated that it is in the process of overhauling its own REDD+ standards. VERRA has committed to scrapping its rainforest protection programme by July 2025 and introducing new rules.
  2. Updating Accounting Method: VERRA has released an update for calculating the climate benefits of the REDD forest conservation projects it certifies.
  3. Project Developers’ Flexibility: VERRA offers project developers significant flexibility in performing emissions reduction estimates and applying safeguards.

Current Perspective:

  1. Leaders in Climate Action: Companies that buy carbon credits are doing more to tackle their climate footprints than companies that don’t. They are nearly twice as likely to be reducing their carbon emissions year over year and are outperforming their competitors in addressing climate change in their supply and value chains.
  2. Science-Based Climate Targets: Companies that buy carbon credits are more than three times as likely to have science-based climate targets than companies that don’t. They are more likely to disclose their emissions, including so-called Scope 3 emissions — emissions associated with consumers’ use of companies’ goods and services, and which are among the most difficult to abate.
  3. Carbon Neutral Marketing: Some companies purchase carbon credits through the VCM but do not use them to offset emissions, instead using these purchases as a way to make a broader contribution to climate change mitigation.

Future Requirements:

  1. Due Diligence: Buyers should conduct due diligence to ensure credits have environmental and social integrity and align their purchasing behavior with net zero needs and guidance as they evolve.
  2. High-Quality Carbon Credits: When evaluating which carbon credits to purchase, buyers need to consider the technology of the project, the registry and protocol used to develop the credits, vintage, geography, co-benefits, additionality, and more. All of these factors impact the quality and price of any given carbon credit.
  3. Understanding Voluntary Schemes: Companies need to understand the voluntary schemes that they are participating in (or may participate in) in the future. They need to consider the nature of the arrangement and the business purpose for purchasing carbon credits.