US-backed Carbon Offsets Program Raises Concerns About Ability to Contribute to Science-Based Climate Goals

Statement by Rachel Cleetus, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Dec 3, 2023

Media Contact

At COP28 today the United States and foundation partners announced a carbon-market offset initiative, the Energy Transition Accelerator (ETA). The program, initially proposed at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, is intended to leverage private finance to accelerate the transition to clean electricity in developing nations. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the program presents serious concerns and will not guarantee necessary cuts in emissions.

Below is a statement by Dr. Rachel Cleetus, the policy director and a lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The Energy Transition Accelerator proposal announced by the United States and other partners is still very much a work-in-progress, and the details shared thus far raise a fair degree of skepticism about its ability to meaningfully contribute to addressing the climate crisis.

“There is no doubt that developing countries are in urgent need of scaled-up finance to enable a clean energy transition away from polluting fossil fuels. Richer nations, including the United States, have fallen woefully short in living up to their responsibility to deliver that finance. A carbon crediting scheme of the kind proposed here is not the answer.

“The science is clear that the rapidly dwindling global carbon budget means the world must make deep, direct, and rapid cuts in emissions within this decade and beyond. With the yawning gap between our current emissions trajectory and what is required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, carbon offsets simply do not meet the moment.

“Time after time, carbon offset markets have failed to deliver credits that meet high standards for environmental, social, and human rights protections, and there is little reason to expect this program to be any different. We don’t have time to waste in cul-de-sacs like this while the climate crisis spirals out of control.

“Richer nations and large corporations should have no claim over monetizing the scarce remaining carbon budget and yet this program is premised on that unjust idea. At COP28, the primary focus should be on securing an agreement among nations for a fast, fair fossil fuel phaseout and ramping up public finance.”