GAO rips rip-offsets: “The use of carbon offsets in a cap-and-trade system can undermine the system’s integrity.”

Yet another damning analysis questions the value of rip-offsets and the Clean Development Mechanism (see “You can call a rip-offset a CDM project, but it’s still a rip-offset“).

The Government Accountability Office — hardly a bastion of progressive eco-analysis — has written a devastating critique of rip-offsets, which concludes:

Key lessons from the CDM include: (1) the resources necessary to obtain project approval may reduce the cost-effectiveness and quality of projects; (2) the need to ensure the credibility of emission reductions presents a significant regulatory challenge; and (3) due to the tradeoffs with offsets, the use of such programs may be, at best, a temporary solution.

In short, what the hell is the point of the CDM?!

The GAO’s recommendations are equally strong, if still understated:

Congress may wish to consider the following lessons from the CDM: (1) that it may be possible to achieve the CDM’s sustainable development goals and emissions cuts in developing countries more directly and cost-effectively through a means other than the existing mechanism; (2) that the use of carbon offsets in a cap-and-trade system can undermine the system’s integrity, given that it is not possible to ensure that every credit represents a real, measurable, and long-term reduction in emissions; and (3) that while proposed reforms may significantly improve the CDM’s effectiveness, carbon offsets involve fundamental tradeoffs and may not be a reliable long-term approach to climate change mitigation.


Let’s hope Congress actually listens to GAO and sharply scales back the use of offsets in future climate bills. After all, GAO isan investigative arm of Congress.

Related Reuters article: “U.S. report questions value of carbon-offset deals

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6 Responses to GAO rips rip-offsets: “The use of carbon offsets in a cap-and-trade system can undermine the system’s integrity.”

  1. Modesty says:

    Should be:
    There’s a final digit missing from your link above.

  2. paulm says:

    South Africa Scraps Plan to Build Nuclear Power Plant due to lack of funds…

    Dec. 5 (Bloomberg) — South Africa, suffering a power crisis that’s limiting supplies to gold and platinum mines, canceled a plan to build a nuclear plant for about 120 billion rand ($12 billion) as a global credit freeze cuts financing.

    “It’s too big, we can’t do it,” Fani Zulu, a spokesman for state-run power utility Eskom Holdings Ltd., said in Johannesburg. “The bidders were informed after we took the decision at a board meeting yesterday.”

  3. katyyan says:

    German Utility RWE Meets Climate Targets by Supporting Forced Evictions in China:

    A report released today reveals that German power utility, RWE, plans to buy carbon credits from a dam in China that fails to meet World Commission on Dams (WCD) guidelines, a breach of EU law. RWE, one of the biggest CO2 emitters in Europe, is buying the credits to avoid having to reduce emissions from its coal plants in Germany. For more, see

  4. alex says:

    This report in The Times shows how absurd carbon trading can get:

    IMO, the only way to cut emissions is to limit and then reduce the amount of coal, oil and gas we extract, leaving as much as possible permanently in the ground.

  5. jjjones45 says:

    Get happy with free carbon offsets. I did:

  6. twou says:

    Often plagued withback pain two years ago, my orthopedic MRI taken, encouraging the rehabilitation, which is somewhat restless Back pain