The science is clear: unless urgent action is taken to reduce emissions, climate change will push planetary boundaries beyond their limits and disproportionately impact the communities already shouldering the burden of fossil fuel driven climate breakdown.
Companies face growing pressure to appear as though they are green or ‘greening’ – and insist on their legitimacy as allies in the climate debate.
But instead of cutting their greenhouse gas emissions, the biggest polluters are promoting everything from tree-planting to ‘carbon neutral’ gas to convince us we can stop climate breakdown while we continue to extract and burn climate-wrecking fossil fuels. Known as greenwashing, these tactics are being used so that companies can continue business as usual and protect their profits.
An increasingly popular approach is ‘carbon offsetting’ - big polluters seek to compensate for their carbon dioxide emissions by relying on the removal, reduction or even avoidance of emissions elsewhere. Offset projects generate credits, which are traded to allow other actors to offset or ‘excuse’ the release of more carbon dioxide.
Offsets are meant to be the last stage in the climate change mitigation hierarchy – a last resort. Instead, some of the worst polluters, including fossil fuel companies and airlines, are relying heavily on offsets to meet their climate goals. In this way, offsets are being used by carbon intensive actors as permits to pollute – a way to continue emissions as usual.
This accounting trick is just one in an arsenal of false solutions pushed by companies whose operations are wrecking the climate. To convince us all that they have everything under control, big polluters invest billions of dollars annually in advertising and other campaigns. Companies have shifted from outright denial of climate change to distraction and delay with the help of unscrupulous think-tanks, PR and advertising agencies, and talking heads for hire.
We need to reclaim the narrative, challenge the assumed legitimacy in the climate space and make it harder for climate-wrecking corporations to lie about the harms they are causing to people and the planet.