Most carbon offset certificates from biggest provider are ‘worthless’: study

A system that allows big corporations to buy carbon offsets in rain forests to cancel out their harmful emissions is essentially “worthless”, according to scientific studies into Verra’s - which offer the world’s leading carbon offset crediting program - rainforest schemes, which were analysed by German media outlet Die Zeit, British daily The Guardian and SourceMaterial, a non-profit investigative journalism organisation.

Verra has issued certificates to the likes of Netflix, Shell, Disney and Bayer.

Buying carbon credits by financing projects to protect rainforests has become a popular way for companies to claim they are carbon neutral.

To generate a carbon credit, a project must be implemented to protect a part of a rainforest and ensure it is not felled. The area saved corresponds to an amount of carbon those trees are able to absorb from the atmosphere. A company can buy credits to offset its emissions.

Companies like Verra are supposed to ensure that the projects they invest in are real and effective, however questions about methodology used to determine this have been treated with suspicion for some time.

Analysis of Verra’s rainforest scheme

The three media organisations concluded that 90 percent of credits offered by the world's leading provider, Verra, are likely “phantom credits”.

Their nine-month investigation, including an analysis of existing studies into Verra's rainforest schemes and on the ground reporting, found that the offsets largely did not lead to effective reductions in deforestation or any climate benefit.

“Only a handful of Verra's rainforest projects showed evidence of deforestation reductions, according to two studies, with further analysis indicating that 94 percent of the credits had no benefit to the climate,” The Guardian reported.

“The threat to forests had been overstated by about 400% on average for Verra projects, according to analysis of a 2022 University of Cambridge study,” The Guardian revealed.

“Gucci, Salesforce, BHP, Shell, easyJet, Leon and the band Pearl Jam were among dozens of companies and organisations that have bought rainforest offsets approved by Verra for environmental claims,” The Guardian highlighted.

Verra responded to the investigation by asserting that studies’ conclusions are incorrect, and called into question the methodology. Verra insists that they have enabled billions of dollars to be channelled to the vital work of preserving forests.