“Over 90%” of carbon credits linked to reforestation projects certified by Verra, one of the reference standards for this fast-growing market, “are worth nothing”, according to media analysis The Guardian and Die Zeit on Wednesday.
Companies can buy carbon credits or certificates to offset their greenhouse gas emissions, for example by financing reforestation or protection against deforestation, as trees naturally absorb carbon from the air. It is even the main method of large companies to claim that they are carbon neutral, even though their activity does generate CO2.
But almost all of Verra's certificates are “probably” “ghost credits” and “do not represent actual emissions reductions”, according to The Guardian.
The British daily led the investigation with the German newspaper Die Zeit and the investigative NGO SourceMaterial based on several scientific publications.
Verra, the world's largest carbon credit certification body, replied on its website that the studies on which the media relied included “massive miscalculations”.
The Washington-based NGO adds that the sale of carbon credits has redirected “billions of dollars” towards “climate action” and the “protection and restoration of ecosystems”.
To generate a “carbon credit”, it is necessary example that a part of tropical forest, threatened by deforestation, is not finally felled, for example thanks to fences.
The area of forest thus “saved” corresponds to a certain volume of carbon that can continue to be absorbed by the trees. Companies can then buy credits equivalent to these absorbed volumes of CO2 to offset their own climate impact, through a simple financial transaction.
Verra and others are supposed to certify to companies that the projects they finance by buying carbon credits are very real, but methodological issues have plagued this field since its emergence.
The Guardian and Die Zeit analysis only identified “evidence of a reduction in deforestation” than for “only a handful” of Verra's projects.
In total, “94% of the credits” linked to projects in the rainforest “do not have a beneficial effect on the climate “, according to The Guardian, which is based in particular on a study by the University of Cambridge.
Verra claims to have “recently” reviewed its calculation methods and explains that it is in the process of standardizing its methodology.< /p>