BONN (GERMANY) / LONDON (UK), June 2, 2009 – The push by industrialised countries to offset their carbon emissions is undermining the fight against climate change, warned Friends of the Earth International at the start of key UN climate talks taking place in Bonn June 1-12.

A new report released today exposes carbon offsetting as ineffective and damaging, and as a con which is failing to reduce, and in some cases is even increasing, carbon emissions.

Read the report

Meena Raman from Friends of the Earth Malaysia said:

“It is disgraceful that despite the urgency we are facing to tackle climate change, rich industrialised countries are trying to buy their way out of emission reductions through perilous offset schemes. Instead of cheating and continually failing to address climate change, they should live up their historical responsibilities and repay their climate debt.”

Carbon offsetting further increases the ‘climate debt’ that industrialised nations owe to developing countries, which have emitted just a fraction of the carbon emissions responsible for global warming.

Rich, industrialised countries with around twenty percent of the world’s population are responsible for around three quarters of historical greenhouse gas emissions.

European and US administrations are actively promoting the increased use of offsetting at the UN climate talks, including proposing a plan to carbon offset by buying up forests – which will cause significant social harm to the people that rely on forests and which is an ineffective tool to stop deforestation. [3]

Friends of the Earth International is urging people to call for an end to the carbon offsetting con and put pressure on world leaders for real action. Individuals can sign up to a climate justice petition at

The green campaign group wants a commitment from rich countries to cut their carbon emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2020 – through real change at home, not by buying offsets from abroad – and earmark new money for developing countries to adapt to the effects of climate change and grow their economies using clean technology.

Tom Picken of Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland said:

“Western governments are cheating us all by plotting to expand carbon offsetting at the UN climate talks – which means avoiding real action through dodgy accounting instead of taking bold action to tackle the climate crisis.

Carbon offsetting is simply delaying vital infrastructure change that is needed, putting the lives and livelihoods of millions of people at risk and is worsening inequality between rich and developing countries’ levels of emissions. “




Meena Raman, Honorary Secretary of Friends of the Earth Malaysia: + 60 12 43 00 042 (Malaysian mobile number)

Tom Picken, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland Tel: +44 7810 55 82 47 (UK mobile number)

Joseph Zacune, Friends of the Earth International Climate Coordinator, Tel: +44 79 67 87 75 93 (UK mobile number)

Antje von Broock, climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth Germany/BUND, Tel. +49 173 6071601


Henry Rummins, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland press office  +44 20 7566 1649 or +44- 7761 601 666


Notes to Editors:

1. The report was produced by Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

2. ‘A Dangerous Distraction’ shows that offsetting is profoundly unjust, fundamentally flawed, and cannot successfully be reformed because:

a. It pays for projects intended to reduce emissions in developing countries while rich countries continue pumping out climate-changing gases with impunity – when the science demands that carbon reductions are made in both developed and developing countries;

b. Often the projects funded would have taken place anyway, so no additional carbon is saved;

c. Many of the projects are fossil-fuel based projects which increase emissions rather than reduce them;

d. Offsetting reduces pressure on rich countries to develop sustainable technologies and provides an excuse for politicians to give the go-ahead to carbon intensive projects such as airport runways and coal-fired power stations;

e. Offsetting increases inequality in carbon consumption between rich and poor countries.

3. Plans to reduce emissions from deforestation through proposals that allow rich countries to buy chunks of forest whilst continuing to pump out emissions, is simply an extension of carbon offsetting. 1.6 billion people rely on forests, including 60 million indigenous people who are entirely dependent upon forests for their livelihoods, food, medicines and building materials.

Including forests in carbon markets is likely to trigger a land grab – leaving these communities struggling to survive.

Furthermore, as the proposal defines plantations as forests, funding under a UN scheme known as REDD could be used to replace forests with large monoculture plantations. Plantations only store 20 per cent of the carbon of intact forests, so this would reduce REDD’s impact on cutting carbon emissions.