5 reasons why carbon credits are not enough

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“Carbon credits are not enough for realising sustainability. They focus only on reducing emissions, too often lack credibility and accountability, have limited impact across development areas, and widen social inequality. We ask “Are carbon credits really the answer to climate change? Let’s explore better options.”

Carbon offset credits are a well established tool in sustainable business, yet for many the term still feels vague and undefined. Carbon offsets are tickets that represents units of avoided carbon pollution. Companies buy and retire these tickets to balance out their internal pollution accounts. Through retirements, businesses can claim various levels of “carbon neutrality”. At Handprint, we stay on top of NatureTech trends, including offset credits, because we are committed to helping scale up transparent and accessible solutions. Since 2020, we’ve noticed more companies using offset credits to become more environmentally responsible, and we are also monitoring if it is the right choice for leaders who want to make the greatest positive impacts to grow their handprints. 

We have seen that as offset credits have become more widely accepted as a legitimate sustainability tool, the range of credits has diversified to include more types of climate action and to do more to measure biodiversity gains from the credit-generating projects. Meanwhile, we have also seen cutting edge scientific research and investigative journalism raise big questions about the quality of many of the credits that big companies have bought and retired to justify their pollution. For leaders today, it’s time to dive deeper into the science and make data-driven decisions on how companies compete for sustainability. 

Buying Carbon Credits

Discover 5 Reasons Why Carbon Credits Are Not Enough Plus Modern Alternative Solutions. 

A key foundation of Handprint’s business is helping clients’ build lasting, nature-positive partnerships to grow their handprint. When serving new clients, we encourage them to participate in six shifts of perspective. The first shift involves attention – leaders must look past fear-mongering narratives based in guilt and hold focus on forward progress. 

Footprints measure the sum of environmental damages by a person or company, while a handprint measures the sum of positive good created by that same person or company in the world. When leaders shift attention, it becomes easy to appreciate the difference between neutralising a footprint and building a handprint.

Indeed, sometimes it seems like footprints too often become a corporate obsession, driven by these narratives of guilt and fed by an ecosystem of auditors and consultants. Outside measure footprints and broker deals to buy offsets to help cancel out historical damages. In the worst cases, footprinting locks leaders’ imaginations in a dispiriting loop of acknowledging the bad and seeking the cheapest ways to mitigate accumulated guilt, all without looking for long-term solutions to actually regenerate the planet.

The 5 Reasons Why Carbon Credits Are Not Enough

Offset credits have quickly become a ready accessible substitute for leadership. Companies pollute – as in the automotive or oil industries, then purchase offsets to minimise their accountability. In judging the legitimacy of this approach, we cannot ignore these five ways carbon credits fail to align with a regenerative mindset that can engage true sustainable business solutions with an open mind.

1. Carbon Credits Have A Limited Scope

Carbon credits focus on reducing only carbon emissions but fail to address other environmental issues such as water and land pollution, deforestation, and loss of species habitats. These problems require more comprehensive solutions, such as better land management practices and investment in renewable energy transitions.

2. Carbon Credits Have A Lack of Accountability

The effectiveness of carbon credits is hard to measure, and there is little guarantee that the proceeds of credit sales actually go to funding long-term, positive change. A lack of transparency and accountability in offset markets makes it difficult to assess whether credits have a genuine, positive impact on the environment because a large portion of the funds that go to buying and retiring credits goes to paying salaries at brokers and consultants.

3. Carbon Credits Still Suffer From Inadequate Regulation

The carbon offset market is largely unregulated, allowing for wide ranging evidence of over-crediting and false claims of real-world emissions reductions. This lack of unified rules undermines the credibility of the offset market and makes it difficult for consumers to trust that their purchases are making a difference.

4. Carbon Credits Have A Limited Impact

Carbon credits cannot address the root causes of climate change, the burning of fossil fuels and the overconsumption of livestock. Offsets may slow the rate of global warming,but  they will never prevent warming because they do not address the causes. And in the process, offsets distract leaders from driving real, positive change.

5. Carbon Credits Are Keeping Us Apart

Carbon credits have inequitable benefits, as they are overwhelmingly validated, verified, brokered, purchased, and retired by wealthy individuals and corporations. A more sustainable solution will prioritize inclusivity of benefits and accelerate resource transfer to low-income communities whose land use decisions have immediate, positive impacts on the climate.  The practice of buying offsets perpetuates situations where those who contribute the least to climate change suffer disproportionate burdens from warming.

Regeneration First

The Future Is Regenerative 

Handprint is a NatureTech company that aligns businesses with curated impact projects providing transparent, accessible regeneration of the planet. Supporting these projects allows companies to grow their handprint. While we respect corporations who use carbon credits to move resources to high quality climate work, we encourage leaders to move beyond decisions driven by guilt or by fear of change. 

Handprint offers solutions to clients seeking carbon credits generated from a trustworthy source, such as the Global Mangrove Trust (GMT). To understand how Handprint sees the evolution of carbon credits, one of our founders Simon Schillebeeckx, recently published his thoughts on how the science will and can improve surrounding the permits. Read more of Simon’s views and research, by clicking here.