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Old carbon credits could swamp the market - so they need to be retired now!

Mark Maslin's picture
Professor and Director University College London

Mark Maslin FRGS, FRSA is a Professor at University College London and the Director of the London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership. He is a founding Director of Rezatec Ltd, a data product...

  • Member since 2021
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  • Jan 25, 2021
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Old carbon credits could swamp the market

The carbon offset market looks set to grow: our report projects that by 2050 the carbon offsets market will probably be worth more than US$90 billion (£67 billion) and maybe as much as US$480 billion – at least a 200-fold increase on the US$0.4bn spent in 2020.

The bad news is that the expansion may not actually reduce emissions because, at the moment, 600 million to 700 million tonnes of old carbon credits could be claimed in the carbon offset market – seven to eight times the current annual demand. Were these all to be claimed it would swamp the market, meaning companies buying cheap credits from projects with little or no additionality, and so little or no climate benefit.

To avoid this the world needs an independent international body to oversee and carefully regulate the #carbon offset #market. This would have to ensure the registries of verified #carbon credits only hold high quality projects. Finally buyers need to be empowered to demand credits that will clearly make a real difference.

#climatechange #CarbonCredits #carbonoffsets

 

 

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 25, 2021

To avoid this the world needs an independent international body to oversee and carefully regulate the #carbon offset #market. This would have to ensure the registries of verified #carbon credits only hold high quality projects. Finally buyers need to be empowered to demand credits that will clearly make a real difference.

This seems to be a no brainer of a proposal, but I'm sure the actual implementation is much more challenging than it would appear-- just look at the struggles in most international climate agreements. Do you have optimism that we could actually achieve a consensus on something like this that would get the world (or at least a majority of the major players) to buy in? 

Mark Maslin's picture
Mark Maslin on Jan 25, 2021

I am not convinced that we will get a proper international framework (we are trying!) - but what might happen is we get new accept norms in the carbon offset markets - such as no carbon offsets allow to be back dated from before 2020.  In the future the offset market will focus on direct removeal of CO2 from the atmosphere through reforestation, rewilding, CCS and direct air capture.  Offsets from renewables should be phased out as soon as possible. Hope this help.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 25, 2021

Mark, given there is no solid evidence carbon credits have ever lowered carbon emissions, this artifice should be abandoned - and the sooner, the better.
In my opinion any emissions proposal with "offset" or "net-zero" in its description can be safely ignored. And should be.

"In the future the offset market will focus on direct removeal of CO2 from the atmosphere through reforestation..."

In the long term reforestation accomplishes nothing. Why? All those trees being planted today will eventually die, then decompose, and their carbon will return to the atmosphere. And the cycle repeats. It's carbon that is already part of the terrestrial biosphere, and will remain there indefinitely.

The first step is ending carbon extraction - until we leave oil, gas, and coal in the ground, we're going nowhere.

Mark Maslin's picture
Mark Maslin on Jan 26, 2021

Humans have cut down 3 trillion tress - half the trees on the planet.  So there is huge opportunity to replant forests to store carbon on land.  Hence the trillion tree movement.  Moreover the science shows us that even if we global get to net carbon zero by 2050 - we will still need negative emission - sucking CO2 our of the atmosphere if we are going to hit the 1.5˚C target.  So reforestation and rewilding are an essential part of the long-term solution to extreme climate change and carbon offsets are a good way of utilizing corporate money to make a positive difference.  Also reforestation also reduces risk of flash flooding, reduces soil loss, stablizes local rainfall and has been shown to boost local agricultural production.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 26, 2021

Mark, currently biomass production, logging, and deforestation for crops are responsible for the loss of an estimated 5.5 billion trees/yr. These are old-growth trees - biomass that won't be replaced for a century or more by trees planted today. Combine that with the 1% of trees in the U.S. killed each year by invasive pests, and it's not hard to see trees are currently dying or being chopped down faster than they could possibly be replaced.

Meanwhile, burning fossil fuel is adding 9 gigatonnes (GT) of carbon to the terrestrial biocycle each year. In 60 years, we will have added more climate-killing carbon than in all 5,000 years of human history (550 GT).

If we don't stop burning fossil fuel, we're going backwards, and fast. Planting trees doesn't even scratch the surface.

Mark Maslin's picture
Mark Maslin on Jan 30, 2021

Dear Bob

There are estimates out there of how much reforestation is happening vs deforestation.  In this article we correct the numbers in the "Science" article which quoted a number 2 to 4 times to high for the carbon sequestration of a trillion trees.  Also there is an important section on the massive reforestation of western China in the 1990s which was very successfu.  hope this helps

 

https://theconversation.com/reforesting-an-area-the-size-of-the-us-neede...

 

Mark

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Jan 26, 2021

It seems world leaders are now aware we face critical challenges in addition to CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere. Agriculture soil and water exhaustion is one. Biodiversity is another. Hopefully, younger generations can indeed focus on "direct removeal of CO2 from the atmosphere through reforestation, rewilding, CCS and direct air capture."

It also seems nobody else can untangle the wires, windmills, batteries, money trails, etc. of our recent energy infrastructure policies. Hopefully, we can stop making it worse before it's too late.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 27, 2021

Rick, I'm curious about your opinion of biomass.

It was a controversial topic even before Michael Moore enraged the left with his film "Planet of the Humans". After showing how solar and wind are simply proxies for burning gas, he showed us why burning trees (together with discarded tires) could power the U.S. for only one year.

Meanwhile, Germany is "meeting" its climate goals by burning imported wood pellets from clear-cut forests in the U.S. and Canada. Do you envision any sustainable way to power the world with biomass?

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Jan 28, 2021

Thanks for the interest, Bob. First, there is a nifty History Channel video, "Modern Marvels: Dirt," (viewable online) that includes quite a lot of agriculture soil, trees, etc.

I suspect what has happened is some big players finally figured out that boiling cellulose with solar energy, much like boiling water, can be an energy game changer. Cheap liquid/gas fuel plus black dirt is pulling money out of the air.

I went through this many years ago pushing fiber optic computer stuff. Then I read in Time Magazine about the big start-up under Admiral Bobby Inman in Texas, and knew my dealing with wise guys was over.

Scientists do science.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 29, 2021

Here's the Modern Marvels episode I found online that Rick mentions (though you'll have to sign in with your cable provider): https://www.history.com/shows/modern-marvels/season-15/episode-2

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Jan 31, 2021

Thanks Matt. A lot of gossip lately why Bill Gates just became the biggest farm land owner in the US.

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