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Bad Carbs

A new report puts a black eye on the carbon capture industry


Carbon capture has been heralded by some as the great hope against climate change. A recent report doesn't so much refute the technology itself as batter the credibility of those businesses and governments monetizing it.

A nine-month investigation by SourceMaterial, The Guardian and Die Zeit found that only a fraction of every 100 million carbon credits actually results in "real emissions reductions." SourceMaterial is an investigate news outlet supported by funding from the European Climate Foundation and the Grantham Foundation, according to its website. The report says that, more than anything, the methodologies of the process are flawed.

A carbon capture facility in Switzerland.—Dezeen photo


"Our analysis of nearly 100 million carbon credits found that only a fraction of them resulted in real emissions reductions," the report reads. "It raises questions for the organizations that many of the world’s biggest companies, and the consumers who buy their products, rely on to set the standard for effective carbon offsetting—in particular the biggest of them, Verra."


Verra, the company in question, submitted a strong retort almost immediately on January 18, asserting that "the claims in this article are based on studies using “synthetic controls” or similar methods that do not account for project-specific factors that cause deforestation. As a result, these studies massively miscalculate the impact of REDD projects."


Verra claimed in the statement that it "has issued over one billion carbon credits since 2009, which have enabled billions of dollars to be channelled to urgent climate action, sustainable development, and the protection and restoration of ecosystems."


"First and foremost, enabling finance to reach high-quality activities on the ground is the purpose of Verra’s work – more finance enables more climate action, which is vital to keeping us on track for the Paris Agreement goal," the company concluded. Verra is based in Washington, D.C.

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