The Accounting Trick That Could Wreck the Planet

Source: Gizmodo

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND — Part of the agreement being hammered out at United Nations talks as they stretch into their (in theory) last day could let rich countries get away with continuing to pollute by using a bit of tricky math to justify it under the Paris Agreement. Welcome to one of the most confusing—and important—components of international climate policy.

The portion of the agreement, known cryptically as Article 6, is one of those things that is a huge headache due to how complicated it is even by the UN’s own impenetrable standards. (Every time I mention it to someone here in Glasgow, they roll their eyes and groan.) At its very simplest, Article 6 has to do with carbon markets and carbon offsets. These are the schemes that allow countries to pay for projects that take carbon out of the atmosphere—planting trees, for instance, or funding a renewable energy project—in order to get what amounts to a get-out-of-jail-free card to keep up pollution at home.

In theory, the math around carbon markets should work. But in practice, it often ends up being a huge problem, due in large part to what’s known as double-counting. That’s when two separate entities claim the same offset in their calculations—with one country often using that offset to justify burning more fossil fuels.

accounting trick gizmodo 3.jpg, Nov 2021



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