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Book: Carbon Colonisation, the Carbon Neutral Myth

Report>>Carbon colonisation, The Carbon Neutral Myth Offset Indulgences for your Climate Sins by Carbon Watch Transnational Institute, Amsterdam 2007 timan Awasthi

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2007

-- (Credit: SHYAMAL)

If you are feeling guilty about driving a lot or keeping air conditioners on for long, there are businesses that offer ways to salve your conscience. You can pay someone to plant trees or fund renewable energy projects in the developing world. Well that's what a lot of big businesses in the North do.

Does that really work? Not if you go by a report of Carbon Trade Watch (part of Transnational Institute--an international network of activists and researchers), Offset Indulgences for your Climate Sins. "Carbon offsets are the modern day indulgences, sold to an increasingly carbon conscious public to absolve their climate sins," the report states.People are using these offsets as permission to emit carbon elsewhere, especially in the South where communities often have little choice as offset projects are inflicted on them.

Most carbon emissions offsetting projects are plantation-based. But as the report argues: "With plantation-based projects, our knowledge of the carbon cycle is too limited to be able to assess just how much co2 is being absorbed by trees." It cites studies to show how complicated it is to exactly quantify reforestation and/or deforestation in comparison with current fossil fuel emissions.

Carbon reduction aside, larger scale plantations also involve issues of land rights and social justice. The report provides telling evidence of damage done to communities and ecosystems through plantation projects in the South, including India. There is an example from Karnataka, about a mango plantation started by a rock band--Coldplay--and the media coverage it got for being a carbon offset project. But actually the project failed and could not even provide employment to villagers.

A celebrity driven approach to climate change attenuates complexities involving North-South relations and the global inequality of energy and resource distribution lack analysis. There is disproportionate emphasis on individual lifestyles, distracting attention from the wider, systemic changes and collective political action that needs to be taken to tackle climate change. Thus, carbon trading to offset carbon emissions is actually worse than doing nothing, because it pretends to be a solution but actually distracts from the real work that needs to be done in our societies and economies.

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