Home Featured Saving the world’s forests through carbon markets isn’t just ‘greenwashing’
Saving the world’s forests through carbon markets isn’t just ‘greenwashing’

Saving the world’s forests through carbon markets isn’t just ‘greenwashing’

by host

Graham Stuart is a British MP and the United Kingdom’s minister for energy and net zero. Samuel A. Jinapor is Ghana’s minister for lands and natural resources. Vickram Bharrat is Guyana’s minister of natural resources.

The term “greenwashing” was coined by the environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986, after he noticed hotels had signs in bathrooms asking guests to reuse their towels to save the planet. Why, he wondered, were hotels passing the onus onto guests instead of doing more themselves? But today, the term “greenwashing” has become so ubiquitous, it risks dismissing almost any effort to transition to net zero.

Voluntary carbon markets have been at the forefront of allegations of greenwashing in recent years. These are markets that trade in units of carbon, and corporations can use them to offset their emissions and deliver additional carbon savings.

Carbon credits linked to forest initiatives have attracted particularly strong criticism recently, with companies accused of using these credits as offsets to avoid responsibility for reducing their own emissions. There have been accusations that some forest-related credits aren’t delivering real carbon savings or benefiting local communities. As a result, confidence in the market has been shaken, choking off a potentially vital financial source for forest countries.

To be clear, the problems with forest carbon markets that have hit the front pages are very real. But they aren’t the full story.

Without healthy forests — particularly tropical forests — we won’t be able to keep within the targeted 1.5 degrees Celsius limit on global warming. And the inconvenient truth is that, right now, forests are worth more dead than they are alive. Converting forested land for agricultural use or urban or infrastructure development creates jobs and funds public services. This economic reality is why most of today’s rich world destroyed much of its forests as it developed.

But tropical forest countries are working to create a different reality. They want the world to work with them, to reset the incentives in favor of keeping forests standing. And carbon markets are an important part of this effort, with the potential to tip the economic balance toward forest protection and restoration. This is why we need them work.

To dismiss all investment in forest carbon credits as greenwashing isn’t just dangerous for forests, it’s also unsupported by evidence. Research shows that companies engaging in the carbon market are nearly twice as likely to be decarbonizing their own operations, and to be investing three times more in reducing their emissions than those that don’t.

To dismiss all investment in forest carbon credits as greenwashing isn’t just dangerous for forests, it’s also unsupported by evidence. Research shows that companies engaging in the carbon market are nearly twice as likely to be decarbonizing their own operations, and to be investing three times more in reducing their emissions than those that don’t.

We shouldn’t gloss over bad practice. But we also shouldn’t overlook the years of work done by governments to ensure forest carbon transactions can be done with integrity.

This includes the creation of the U.N.’s REDD+ framework for “reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries,” which underpins the emerging supply of credits from large-scale jurisdictional approaches, often covering entire countries. These credits are increasingly subject to independent verification and validation, so corporations can be confident they’re delivering the intended environment results, and that the right safeguards are in place.

Thanks to all this work, high-quality carbon credits are now entering the market. This means we could be at the beginning of a powerful virtuous cycle. As confidence in the quality of these credits grows, so should demand and prices increase, creating better incentives to protect and restore forests. This could then be reinforced by investment in carbon credits, which can be used to complement corporate decarbonization efforts.

We need to get this cycle working — fast. And forest communities and countries are ready to lead the way. A properly functioning forest carbon market could help unlock billions in urgently needed funds to protect and restore forests, and enable the communities that look after them to follow sustainable pathways to development.

This is why we must get these markets to work.  Yes, that means calling out bad practice for what it is — greenwashing. But it also means celebrating and investing in the extraordinary work that has been done to ensure forest carbon credits can be bought with confidence. Doing so isn’t just beneficial to forest countries, it’s vital to our common future.   

Source link

You may also like