By February 2, 2022 Read More →

9 February — Carbon Offsets and Net-Zero Climate Targets

Date: 9 February 2022
Time: 12:00pm ET
Location: Wean Hall 3701 & via Zoom
Speaker: Dr. Danny Cullenward
Topic: Carbon Offsets and Net-Zero Climate Targets

Abstract: Carbon offsets are experiencing a renaissance as governments and companies around the world pledge net-zero climate targets. But what, if anything, has changed since earlier policy regimes produced predominantly low-quality outcomes? Drawing on recent evidence, this talk critiques the political economy of the offsets industry and the governance of its scientifically complex climate claims. The central conceit of carbon offsets is that all credits are climatically equivalent to ongoing emissions, when in practice critical features vary widely across individual projects and project types — with carbon removal projects the only compatible approach for net-zero climate targets. The lack of price discrimination across offsets’ fundamental features creates a race-to-the-bottom dynamic that locks in low-quality outcomes and frustrates the economics of potentially higher-quality projects. Fixing these problems requires innovations in technical oversight capacity and governance institutions, both of which are opposed by special interest groups that benefit from the status quo. I conclude the talk with an outline for how change might emerge in the public and private sectors.