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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