Offsetting – buy while stocks last

Offsetting is promoted for those hard to decarbonise activities as a green solution to meet net zero carbon. Apple has  announced a $200 billion forest fund and other corporates are using the same method.

This seems a great idea and as net zero needs finance, using corporate funds makes sense – or does it?

The issue that isn’t talked about is that offsetting isn’t a limitless way to escape from decarbonising. Offsetting requires land and as Mark Twain said, they’ve stopped making it. So offsetting will compete with other land use, agriculture, housing, etc and there isn’t an infinite amount of land for offsetting given these competing demands.

First mover advantage is therefore sensible as Apple is demonstrating. But which emission sources should be prioritised for offsetting? Should offsetting, in land use terms, in effect, be licensed by governments? If it isn’t regulated, will some activities that we really need lose out?

Should the disposable business model be prioritised  ( for example, upgrade your mobile phone every two years, don’t maintain the software for old models to nudge consumers to buy new phones or with new model i phones introduce a new charger and ensure the old charger won’t work) or should other sectors be prioritised?

On the basis that net zero goes hand in hand with the circular economy, shouldn’t governments be thinking about which sectors should have priority over others for access to offsetting in strategic terms (cement, steel etc).

This is not to criticise those businesses which are investing in offsetting, but to question whether we should allow the market to decide which businesses have access to offsetting, which is what is happening de facto at present.

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