Carbon Offset: Climate Change Solution?

We often hear the term Carbon Offset, with the increasing discussion about carbon trading. Carbon offset broadly refers to the reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions or the increase in carbon sequestration through land restoration activities or tree planting to compensate for emissions that occur elsewhere.

The concept of carbon offsets first emerged in the late 1980s, when policymakers seriously sought ways to mitigate climate change. The first and largest carbon offset program is the CDM (Clean development mechanism) of the UNFCCC, which was established based on the Kyoto Protocol as a mechanism that allows developed countries to meet emission reduction obligations by investing in climate change mitigation in developing countries. This program can be implemented because Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG) aren’t a local problem, but have the same impact on climate change wherever emissions occur and whatever the source of emissions.

This has come to be known as Common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR). This difference in responsibility underlies the formation of a carbon market, where parties (countries or companies) that cannot reduce emissions, can “order” other parties who can reduce emissions by “buying” Carbon Offset Credits.

This concept has received criticism from various parties, one of whom is George Monbiot, a British Environmentalist and author, who equates the concept of carbon offsets with “indulgences” in Roman Catholic, which is a way for the guilty to give their goods (materials) to the needy to get forgiveness rather than change their behavior. Other critics refer to carbon offsets as a “license to pollute” or some as “greenwashing”. Thus, Carbon Offset Credit should not be used as an excuse for a country or company to “escape responsibility” from climate change mitigation actions.

However, behind all the pros and cons, Carbon Offset Credits allow developing countries to carry out sustainable development while maintaining the sustainability of the “main subject” of carbon sinks (forests). This program is also a form of monitoring and accountability to ensure that companies/countries stick to their commitments to climate change mitigation efforts.

Finally, Carbon offset is only a “palliative” action, not a cure for climate change. So, climate change mitigation efforts need to also be carried out by the community and not fixated on a country/company. Data compiled by WRI-Indonesia, states that each individual in Indonesia produces an average of 2.03 tons of carbon emissions per year. Thus, awareness of reducing emissions and increasing carbon sequestration by planting trees and Eco-friendly living habits must be instilled in each of them, and most importantly that this awareness is not for one’s own goals but for a better earth in the future.


Sources :

  1. “Carbon offsets are a license to pollute | REDD-Monitor”. Retrieved 2022-05-31.
  2. “Carbon Offsetting, The Necessary Stopgap That Indonesians Can Implement”
  3. “Kyoto Protocol — Target for the first commitment period”.
  4. Kaste, Martin (2006-11-28). “Carbon Offset Business Takes Root”. National Public Radio. Archived from the original on 2017-09-22. Retrieved 2018-04-03. It’s a bit like the sale of indulgences prior to the Reformation -that as long as you hand over your money, your sins are deemed to have been canceled out and you are no longer unclean in the eyes of God.
  5. Monbiot, George (2006-10-19). “Selling Indulgences”. Archived from the original on 2010-10-06. Retrieved 2010-08-10. The trade in carbon offsets is an excuse for business as usual.
  6. What is a Carbon Offset? – Carbon Offset Guide
  7. What is carbon offsetting and how does it work? | Carbon offsetting | The Guardian