Trading carbon in the midst of a climate crisis is like moving deckchairs whilst the Titanic sinks.

Carbon trading is the process of buying and selling permits and credits to emit carbon dioxide. All carbon trading systems have been beset with problems and corruption, and yet some countries and industries continue to suggest carbon trading can tackle rising emissions.

Scientists have defined the amount of carbon dioxide we can release globally and still meet the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global warming below two degrees, and aspiring for 1.5 degrees. This “carbon budget” has no wiggle room. It requires us to shift to a low carbon energy, agriculture, transport and industrial world now, whilst at the same time removing some carbon dioxide from the air with restoration of forests. The best way to do this is through direct regulation.

Carbon trading is of paramount importance to those interested in forests because planting trees and protecting forests are proposed ways to offset carbon cheaply. But you can never offset fossil carbon by protecting or planting trees and there is no evidence that carbon trading has provided money in the amounts that was expected.

Fern’s work has halted EU plans to include forests in its Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and discouraged the UK and the EU from engaging in biodiversity offsetting.

Fern believes that carbon trading, forest offsets and biodiversity offsetting are dangerous distractions which allow people, organisations and countries to continue emitting or destroying when it would otherwise be forbidden. We make our critiques freely available and raise concerns when industries (such as aviation) propose offsetting rather than reducing emissions.

Key publications
Fern has produced Trading Carbon, a stake in the ground publication outlining what carbon trading is, and why it’s controversial. This is also available as a summary version Designed to Fail.
All resources related to Carbon trading