16 Apr 2024, 12:01
Jennifer Collins

German suppliers using dubious CO2 offsets to sell 'climate-neutral' gas – media report


The carbon offset market is a billion-dollar business that promises buyers they can compensate their climate-damaging emissions in one place by funding a green scheme elsewhere. But an analysis by German investigative outlet CORRECTIV has found that 116 out of 150 German gas and municipal heat suppliers using offset schemes have offered gas tariffs and products that "are far less green than promised."  

The analysis looked at carbon offset or credit schemes used by natural gas suppliers between 2011 and 2024. The schemes were offered by the two biggest offset certifiers Verra and Gold Standard, who promise companies and customers that they can dial up the heating with a clean climate conscience by protecting forest in Brazil or building up renewable energy in India, for instance. CORRECTIV's investigation, which was supported by scientists and experts from institutions such as Berkley University and Environmental Action Germany (DUH) found, however, for two thirds of the 16 million credits analyzed, it could not be "plausibly proved" that emissions were cut. 

CORRECTIV estimated that the "questionable credits" used by German gas suppliers added up to around 10 million tons of climate-wrecking CO2 not saved or reduced over the past 13 years, contrary to what consumers were promised. In response to the investigation, Verra said it was committed to constant innovation to ensure the integrity of climate projects, while Gold Standard said it had been in favour of moving away from "offsetting" for some time.  

Experts told CORRECTIV that as soon as companies realised it was possible to earn money with offsetting, the market was flooded with garbage projects that should "never have been given approval." This is not the first-time carbon offset schemes have come under fire. Another recent investigation into Verra found that most offsets are worthless and may worsen global heating. Net zero commitments have also seen companies scramble to "absolve their climate sins" with offsets, setting off "gold rushes" in countries like Mexico with questionable results for the environment and local communities.  

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