Green Oversite



The Flawed Argument for Land Clearance Avoidance Carbon Credits

By Bruce Barbour - February 2023

Refer to the hypothetical example of the creation of billions of carbon credits by avoiding land clearance of the entire Amazon rain forest that I wrote about on the page titled "The Insanity of Land Clearance Avoidance Carbon Offsets".

In my case of the hypothetical Amazon rain forest clearance example promoters of land clearance avoidance carbon credits would argue that if the scheme was not in place the deforestation of the Amazon would proceed. And the fossil fuel companies would have kept pumping out their carbon dioxide. According to them this would mean double the amount of carbon dioxide release compared to the situation with the land clearance avoidance carbon credit system in place.

This argument is flawed on a number of fronts.

Firstly if land clearance carbon credits were stopped it does not mean that nothing else would be done to save the rain forest. Other better solutions should be commenced in place of land clearance carbon credits. For example a carbon tax could be put on fossil fuel industry. Part of the revenue from that could be used to fund schemes to save the forest. Political and economic pressure can be put on countries to stop them clearing forests.

Another flaw in the argument is that while carbon credits may have been claimed for all of the forest there may be a number of reasons that clearing all of the forest would have been impossible or uneconomic. It could also be the case that even when a section of forest is supposedly "saved" from clearing and carbon credits granted that logging proceeds anyway.

The ABC has recently (February 2023) aired a "4 Corners" investigation into proposals for carbon credit schemes in Papua New Guinea. It showed that claims were put in for areas that were effectively impossible to log because of the steep inaccessible terrain. It also showed some logging proceeding in areas that had already been approved for carbon credits. It showed applications for some carbon credits projects that contained straight out untruths (for example claiming that an area was threaten by a railway project when there are no railways in the whole of PNG). As one of the commentators on 4 Corners says - it would be farcical if it wasn't so serious.

These types of errors, rorting or outright fraud would also be endemic to a large proportion of other land clearance avoidance carbon credit schemes. These type of issues with the scheme have also been found in some Australian land clearance avoidance carbon credit projects. It is not just a problem that occurs in less developed countries. The recent Chubb enquiry (January 2023) recommended that land clearance carbon credits not be included in an Australian carbon credit scheme.

There is also the issue of longevity of carbon storage in forests.

Supposedly with these carbon credit schemes the forest is meant to be protected in-perpetuity. But who is going to be around to ensure that this happens. Certainly not the promoters of the projects. They will have made their money and while they may stay around for a while will they still be there in 20 years? In 40 years? Governments may change and simply rip up any agreement to protect the forest. Population pressures may mean that the people want to expand into the supposedly protected forest. Or want to log them for resources. Who is going to stop them?

And then there is climate change itself. As temperatures increase forest fires will become an increasing risk. Some fringe forested areas may convert to open grass land as there may be insufficient rainfall to sustain a forest.

Meanwhile a significant proportion of the carbon released by the fossil fuel industry stays in the atmosphere for a hundred years and more.

The outcome of this is that while an Amazon rain forest of carbon credits may have been created the actual amount of carbon prevented from entering the atmosphere from the carbon credit project may only be a proportion of that. And even less over time. However the amount of carbon dioxide generated by the fossil fuel industry is certain.

So what is the point of land clearance avoidance carbon credits?

Governments and companies love them.

For companies they are simply a vehicle that allows the fossil fuel and other companies to claim:

"We're good corporate citizens. We're at Net Zero. Look away. Look away. There is nothing to see here."

In the meantime there is limited progress on decreasing their actual emissions. And atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will continue to rise. Unhindered.

For governments they are a vehicle to enable them to claim to have met their agreed targets. On paper. For a cheap price. While delaying the deeper carbon cuts that have to occur quickly. It seems inconsequential to them that the savings are in large part false and ineffective - so long as they can claim they have met their targets on paper. However it is very consequential to climate change and maintaining a habitable planet.

Land clearance avoidance carbon credits have to be removed from all carbon credit schemes worldwide.

Anything else is

Other links:
Exposing the Carbon Credit and Offset Scam -
Carbon Offsets: The Big Lie -

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