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Legal insights & industry updates

| 1 minute read

Carbon offset. If it looks like an illusion, it is

The Scottish Government declared a climate emergency in April 2019, and has committed to an ambitious programme of emissions reduction measures and carbon capture projects to reach ‘net zero’ by 2045. With COP26 just around the corner, are we full steam ahead towards net zero or barely out of first gear? 

The carbon offset market is one aspect which Scotland is uniquely placed to capture with both forestry planting and peatland restoration being key to the growing area. However, is the offset market simply ensuring the status quo remains or will it lead to a meaningful reduction in emissions and a drive towards 2045?

Vicky Allan's article evidences the attraction of carbon offsetting to the fossil fuel industry and importantly contemplates what the hidden cost is, for nations, like Scotland, who benefit from the vast tracts of land required? Is there a risk of sterilising thousand upon thousands of hectares of land for forestry in an effort to combat climate change only to discover that the emissions have not been cut and simply put, the world has been treading water, or worse still suffocating from the greenhouse gases being pumped into our atmosphere?     

In order to ensure the offsetting is not illusionary the quality assurance standards must be maintained and be beyond reproach. The UK Woodland Carbon Code and the Peatland Code as well as continued community engagement are vital to ensure high quality carbon sequestration projects are maintained for decades to come and reach their full potential. As a result of the urgency of climate change and, for example, the long term investment of forestry planting, we will only get one bite at this apple. 

Are we just creating a system that does more than just allow rich countries to meet their climate targets, without too much change, by paying to dump their carbon in projects outside their territory?