Claim: 90% of Verra Carbon Credits are worthless “Phantom Credits”

From Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

The Guardian has accused Verra Carbon, which sells credits to climate champions like Disney, Shell and Gucci, of not being worth the paper they are printed on.

Revealed: more than 90% of rainforest carbon offsets by biggest provider are worthless, analysis shows

Investigation into Verra carbon standard finds most are ‘phantom credits’ and may worsen global heating

Patrick Greenfield
@pgreenfielduk Thu 19 Jan 2023 01.00 AEDT

The forest carbon offsets approved by the world’s leading provider and used by Disney, Shell, Gucci and other big corporations are largely worthless and could make global heating worse, according to a new investigation.

The research into Verra, the world’s leading carbon standard for the rapidly growing $2bn (£1.6bn) voluntary offsets market, has found that, based on analysis of a significant percentage of the projects, more than 90% of their rainforest offset credits – among the most commonly used by companies – are likely to be “phantom credits” and do not represent genuine carbon reductions.

The analysis raises questions over the credits bought by a number of internationally renowned companies – some of them have labelled their products “carbon neutral”, or have told their consumers they can fly, buy new clothes or eat certain foods without making the climate crisis worse.

The nine-month investigation has been undertaken by the Guardian, the German weekly Die Zeit and SourceMaterial, a non-profit investigative journalism organisation. It is based on new analysis of scientific studies of Verra’s rainforest schemes.

…Read more:

Vera Carbon issued the following response;

Verra Response to Guardian Article on Carbon Offsets

18 JANUARY 2023

  • The Guardian, based on work with Die Zeit and SourceMaterial has incorrectly claimed that Verra-certified REDD+ projects are consistently and substantively over-issuing carbon credits.
  • The claims in this article are based on studies using “synthetic controls” or similar methods that do not account for project-specific factors that cause deforestation. As a result, these studies massively miscalculate the impact of REDD+ projects.
  • Verra develops and continually improves methodologies based on the best-available science and technology through rigorous consultations with many academics and experts. This ensures that project baselines used to calculate carbon credits are robust and a credible benchmark against which to measure the impact of REDD+ projects.

Verra is disappointed to see the publication of an article in the Guardian, developed with Die Zeit and SourceMaterial, incorrectly claiming that REDD+ projects are consistently and substantively over-issuing carbon credits. Verra worked closely with both publications in the run-up to the publication to explain why this claim is untrue, as it is based on studies that use a “synthetic control” approach or similar methods. We want to share this information with our stakeholders and the wider climate community.

…Read more:

As far as I know The Guardian has not claimed the purchasers of the credits were aware of the alleged low quality of Vera’s credits.

What can I say?

I doubt any of us are surprised that an economically worthless invisible product which companies purchase to burnish their green credentials has attracted accusations of misrepresentation.

I have no idea whether the Guardian’s accusations are true, but if Vera are an honest provider of carbon credits, in my opinion they are probably very lonely.