Carbon credits, offsets are false solutions to climate change – Experts

It is well documented that carbon markets have failed spectacularly in achieving their environmental
objectives and that many carbon offset projects have a devastating social impact.
In spite of this
evidence, carbon markets remain the main policy tool to address climate change in Europe, based on the misguided hope that they will work “once the price is right”.
Yet, beyond the well-known issues of excess permits and frauds, it has also been demonstrated that carbon markets have major conceptual flaws that cannot be fixed, such as the inability to provide a
reliable price signali or the fact that the climate impact of offset projects is not calculable.
When carbon becomes a new asset class for investors, carbon markets will be much more vulnerable
than traditional financial markets to crashes and abrupt losses of confidence from investors, with a high risk of contagion to other asset classes and the wider economy.
Yet, new carbon markets are being created such as CORSIA, the carbon offset market for civil
aviation emissions, or the one mooted under article 6 of the UN Paris Agreement to be finalised at
These irremediable issues mean that carbon markets will never meet their environmental
and social objectives and should be abandoned for more robust alternatives.
Mandating a progressive phasing out from fossil fuels complemented by targeted tax policies aimed
at ensuring a fair sharing of the costs of a transition away from fossil fuel dependence would be far
simpler, fairer and incomparably more effective in addressing climate change. Binding regulations
have proven their effectiveness time and again, notably to address the hole in the ozone layer,
prevent river pollution by effluents or reduce lead emissions from cars.
Such a plan would of course
be progressive and would mean finally starting to act, instead of continuing with the current inaction
fostered by carbon markets.
Binding environmental regulations would also incidentally make finance sustainable with regards to
climate change, as the risk-adjusted returns of all companies and economic activities would
automatically adjust to the new regulations and capital would shift accordingly.
In turn, these
questions the current political focus softening financial regulation in exchange for a greening of bank balance sheets.
As carbon markets continue to prove their ineffectiveness while the incidence and amplitude of
natural catastrophes increase and renewable energy prices continue to drop, public pressure is likely to make the current focus on carbon markets, as the central pillar of EU climate policy, gradually
become politically untenable. Wasting another decade would only make the transition more abrupt with a far worse impact on climate and jobs.
We therefore call on policy makers to stop supporting new doomed carbon offset markets, notably at the COP25.
For more information read : ‘50 shades of green – the rise of natural capital markets and sustainable
finance’ available at
List of signatories:
Frédéric Hache, director, Green Finance Observatory
Nicolas Bouleau, Emeritus professor, Ecole des Ponts ParisTech
Gaël Giraud, Research Director CNRS, Professor Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées Paris Tech
Laurence Scialom, Professor of Economics, University Paris West
Jézabel Couppey-Soubeyran, Lecturer in Economics, University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Esther Jeffers, Professor of Economics, University of Picardie
Dominique Plihon, Emeritus professor, University Paris 13 Sorbonne Paris Cité
Clive L. Spash, Chair of Public Policy and Governance, WU Vienna University of Economics and
Richard B. Norgaard, Professor Emeritus of Energy and Resources, University of California, Berkeley
Inge Røpke, Professor of Ecological Economics, Aalborg University, Copenhagen
Arild Vatn, Professor of environmental sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Ewald Engelen, Professor of Financial Geography, University of Amsterdam
Steve Rayner, James Martin Professor of Science & Civilisation, Institute for Science, Innovation &
Society, Professorial Fellow, Keble College, University of Oxford
Barbara Harriss-White, FAcSS, Emeritus Professor of Development Studies, Oxford University,
Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford
Kathleen McAfee, Professor, International Relations and Environmental Policy, San Francisco State
Patrick Bigger, Lecturer (Assistant Professor) of Economic Geography, Lancaster University
Nathalie BERTA, Lecturer in Economics, University of Reims, Champagne-Ardenne
Gert Van Hecken, Assistant Professor (tenure track) in International Cooperation and Development,
Institute of Development Policy (IOB), University of Antwerp
Ozgur Gun, Lecturer in Economics, University of Reims, Champagne-Ardenne
Benjamin Neimark, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography and Political Ecology, Lancaster University
Sarah Knuth, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography, Durham University
Erik Swyngedouw, MAE, Professor of Geography, University of Manchester
Daniela Gabor, Professor of Economics and Macro-Finance, UWE Bristol
Patrick Bond, Distinguished Professor of Political Economy, University of the Witwatersrand School
of Governance, Johannesburg
Tor A. Benjaminsen, Professor of Political Ecology, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)
Vincenzo Bavoso, Lecturer in Commercial Law, University of Manchester
David Bassens, Assistant Professor, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Irene van Staveren, Professor of Pluralist Development Economics, ISS, Erasmus University
Gary Dymski, Professor of Applied Economics, Leeds University Business School
Charles Dannreuther, Lecturer in European Political Economy, School of Politics and International
Studies, University of Leeds
Philip G. Cerny, Professor Emeritus of Politics and Global Affairs, University of Manchester (UK) and
Rutgers University (USA)
Joscha Wullweber, University of Kassel
Nina Haerter, PhD researcher, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Denis Dupré, Professor of Finance and Ethics, University Grenoble-Alps
Manuel B. Aalbers, Professor of Geography, KU Leuven, Belgium
Jesus Ferreiro, Professor of Applied Economics, University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU
Jens Friis Lund, Professor of Political Ecology, University of Copenhagen
Aurore Lalucq, Co-director, Veblen Institute
José Castro Caldas, Economist, researcher at the Centre for Social Studies, Coimbra University,
member of the Portuguese National Council of the Environment and Sustainable Development
Gilles Raveaud, Lecturer in Economics, University Paris 8 - Saint-Denis
Professor Peter Newell, Department of International Relations, School of Global Studies, University
of Sussex
Antoine Henrot, Professor of Mathematics, Ecole des Mines de Nancy, University of Lorraine
Thomas Lagoarde-Segot, Economist, KEDGE Business School and SDSN France
John R Porter, Professor of Climate and Food Security, University of Montpellier SupAgro, University
of Copenhagen, University of Greenwich, UK, Lincoln University, New Zealand
Peter Dietsch, Professor, Director of the Economics and Ethics theme, Université de Montréal
Malcolm Sawyer, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Leeds University
Andrea Lagna, Lecturer, School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University
Peter Karnøe, Professor | DIST - Center For Design, Innovation, and Sustainable Transition,
Susse Georg, Professor, Aalborg University, Copenhagen
Genevieve Azam, Honorary Lecturer in economics, University Jean Jaurès, Toulouse
Elisa Van Waeyenberge, Senior Lecturer in economics, SOAS University of London
Kobil Ruziev, Associate Head of Department (Economics Programmes), Bristol Business School,
University of the West of England
Jan Kregel, Professor of Finance and Development, Tallinn University of Technology, director of
research, Levy Economics Institute, New York
Marco Veronese Passarella, Lecturer in Economics, Leeds University Business School
Joshua Farley, Professor, Community Development and Applied Economics Fellow, Gund Institute for
Ecological Economics, University of Vermont
Karen Maas, Academic Director, Impact Centre Erasmus, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Professor of
Accounting & Sustainability, Open University
Eric Clark, Professor of Human Geography, Lund University
Servaas Storm, Senior lecturer in Economics, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands
Andrew Baker, Faculty Professorial Fellow and Professor in Political Economy. University of Sheffield
Enno Schröder, Assistant Professor, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands
Paul Langley, Professor of Economic Geography, Durham University
Jon Cloke, Senior Researcher Geography Department, Loughborough University
Ismail Ertürk, Senior Lecturer in Banking, Director for Social Responsibility and Engagement, Alliance
Manchester Business School
Giorgos Kallis, ICREA Professor, Social & Behavioural Sciences, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Matthias Schmelzer, , Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie and Postdoctoral researcher at the University
Oliver Picek, Researcher, European Trade Union Institute
Grégoire Wallenborn, Physicist, Professor of the History of Sciences, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Fabrice Flipo, Professor of Social and political philosophy and Epistemology, Institut Mines-Télécom
Pablo Servigne, Independant Researcher, Agronomist and Doctor of Sciences
Rémi Beau, Associate Researcher in Philosophy, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.
Matthieu Meerpoël, Lecturer in Law, Université Catholique de Lille
Ewan Sonnic, Research Associate in Geography and Spatial Planning, Ecole Nationale Supérieure
d'Architecture de Bretagne
Julien Vastenaekels, PhD candidate and teaching assistant in environmental sciences, Université libre
de Bruxelle
Elena Hofferberth, Postgraduate Researcher, Leeds University Business School
Joerg Bibow, Professor and Chair of Economics, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
Michel ROCCA, Professor of Economics, Université Grenoble Alpes
Sophie Béreau, Professor of Finance and quantitative methods, University of Namur
Dominique Bourg, Professor, Institute of Geography and Sustainability, University of Lausanne
Sophie Swaton, Lecturer, Institute of Geography and Sustainability, University of Lausanne
Sébastien Mabile, Doctor in Public Law (thesis in environmental law), lawyer at the Paris Bar
Victor Lefèvre, PhD student in Philosophy of Ecology, Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne University
Emmanuel Prados, Researcher in Applied Mathematics, Computer Science and Computational
sustainability, Director of the STEEP research group at INRIA, Grenoble
Elke Pirgmaier, Research Fellow in the School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds
Aviel Verbruggen, Professor emeritus Energy and Environmental Economics, University of Antwerp
Ivan Ascher, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Paola D’Orazio, Postdoctoral researcher, Chair of Macroeconomics, Faculty of Economics and
Management, Research Fellow, Research Department Closed Carbon Cycle Economy, Universität
Peter Sturm, Research Director, Deputy Scientific Director for Perception, Cognition and Interaction,
Inria Grenoble Rhône-Alpes
François Gemenne, FNRS Senior Research Associate, University of Liège, Executive Director of the
Interdisciplinary Research Program "Earth Policy", Sciences Po
Ivar Ekeland, FRSC, Former President, University of Paris-Dauphine, Former Director, the Pacific
Institute for Mathematical Sciences
Pierre-Yves Longaretti, Researcher, CNRS, Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics Grenoble (IPAG),
Sustainability Team, Territories, Energy, Economy, Environment and Local Policies (STEEP), INRIA.
Julien Milanesi, Senior Lecturer in Economics, University Toulouse 3, Researcher at the CERTOP
laboratory, TERNOV research axis
i Carbon markets rely on the idea that a rising price of the permits to pollute will incentivise polluters to curb their
emissions of greenhouse gases and switch from fossil fuel to renewable technologies. Yet It has been demonstrated that
the wild fluctuations in prices make it impossible to observe any trend in prices and derive any useful information enabling


industries to plan a technology switch. The inexistence of a price signal means that carbon markets will never be able to
incentivise a change in technology and behaviour.

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