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 planting trees and protecting forests, because it gives a source of finance to do this. But this equation just does not add up in climate terms. Trees can never offset the permanent release of fossil carbon into the atmosphere, and there is no evidence that carbon trading is providing anywhere near enough money to incentivise forest protection.

Fern’s work has blocked EU plans to include forests in its Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and stopped 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