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A dangerous distraction. Why offsetting is failing the climate and people: the evidence

Negotiations to prevent dangerous climate change are moving painfully slowly, despite the science demanding urgent carbon cuts. Developed countries are reluctant to set themselves reduction targets consistent with what the science demands and provide necessary financial flows to developing countries.

To compound this failure, they are also seeking to continue and extend the use of offsetting. This report provides the evidence to show that offsetting does not work and will not work. Offsetting does not lead to promised additional emissions cuts in developing countries; it delays essential structural change in developed-country economies; and it institutionalises the idea of cuts in either the north or the south, when science demands reductions in both.

As importantly, the report reveals the inequalities of the offset approach – an approach that allows people in rich countries to carry on polluting while requiring unfair reductions in developing countries.

“Negotiators must recognise that offsetting does not work, will not work and that it must be scrapped.”

Offsetting is now a dangerous distraction. Negotiators must recognise that it does not work, will not work and that it must be scrapped. Instead the world needs developed countries to cut their own emissions first and fast and pay up for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. This course of action is not a threat to the well-being of people in developed countries; it is a vital step towards new jobs, new industries, a healthier global economy and a safer and more just world.

Report available from link below:

About this report

This report has been prepared for Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland’s work on international climate justice. The report is for decision makers, media and campaigners thinking through robust, workable and fair solutions to climate change ahead of the UN talks in Copenhagen in December 2009. There is a growing and credible body of evidence and opinion that offsetting is not working; that it is undermining efforts to prevent dangerous climate change and supporting sustainable development; that it is profoundly unjust, and that it cannot successfully be reformed. This report draws together some of the key evidence to ensure this view is fully reflected in public debate and international talks. It focuses on the UK as an example, but the lessons are applicable to all developed countries.

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