The carbon offsets conundrum

A law school professor and internationally renowned expert in climate policy has blown the whistle on Australia’s carbon offsetting schemes, alleging in four new research papers that some “70 to 80 per cent of the credits that have been issued are markedly low in integrity”.

The expert in question, Andrew Macintosh, is director of research at the ANU law school, and the former head of the government’s Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee.

This isn’t the first time Australia’s carbon credits have been called into question: in September last year, a report by the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australia Institute’s Climate and Energy Program found that one in five carbon credits issued by the Federal Government’s $4.5 billion Emission Reduction Fund (ERF) do not represent real abatement, and are essentially ‘junk’ credits.

So, what are carbon off-sets and carbon credits? How do they work, and can they be done well?

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