Decarbonization hype is becoming a dangerous distraction


Forest offsets, which represent emissions that are not released because forests that are absorbed from the air or that can be cut down by trees are protected, cost around $5 to $15 per tonne. Meanwhile, online payment company Stripe, which has created a program, help increase carbon removal has agreed to pay $775 per tonne to Switzerland-based Climeworks to remove CO2 using direct air capture technology.

Obviously, given the price difference, most bottom-line oriented businesses will go for the former option. But they don’t get the same thing: as trees die and release their CO2, the carbon dioxide captured by Climeworks is converted into minerals and hidden deep underground.

Lackner notes that the actual price of decarbonisation through forests would be significantly higher if landowners had to bear the ongoing costs of monitoring carbon levels and additional decarbonisation obligations should their trees die.

We cannot allow nature-based decarbonisation to set the market price, as we have found that for many reasons they are unreliable, not permanent, and often above and beyond what would be possible in the absence of such systems. says Duncan McLaren, a research associate at Lancaster University’s Environmental Center.

It creates “a rhetoric that makes net zero seem like something relatively easy to achieve at relatively low costs.”

Separating the targets

So, how can we strike the right balance by using decarbonization to mitigate the growing dangers of climate change, without letting the distraction of reducing emissions be a higher priority?

At the very least, legislators around the world should not allow high corporate net-zero targets and buzz on carbon removal to ease the pressure on aggressive climate laws and regulations that enforce emissions cuts or encourage the shift to cleaner technologies.

“Unless we have a mainstream plan to end fossil fuels, there will be a risk of fossil fuel companies and others using carbon removal as a fictitious way to avoid changing their business models,” says assistant professor Holly Buck. in the Department of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Buffalo.


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