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UN launches new platform to offer stranded CDM carbon offsets

As part of the climate week in New York, the UN launched the “Go Climate Neutral Now” initiative- a new online platform to purchase carbon offsets generated by its Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The initiative attempts to boost demand for CDM credits on the voluntary carbon market and for the aviation sector but fails to dodge the sale of bogus carbon offsets. 

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With support of UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and several multinational brands, the Board of the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism launched a new initiative as part of the climate week in New York, called Go Climate Neutral Now. This online shop for CDM offsets was developed in response to the diminishing demand of carbon credits, and aims to make the CDM competitive on the voluntary market. The platform is an integral part of the UN’s latest push to offer CDM carbon offsets to governments, companies and individuals, avoiding broker fees.

How does it work? Project participants can offer carbon credits available in the CDM Registry for voluntary cancellation and set the price themselves. Purchases can be made by any individual, company or government that wish to offset their emissions. Currently, seven projects are listed in the online shop including three wind farms, two hydro power projects, one biomass project and one methane capture facility. Prices per tonne range from US$ 2.40 to US$ 3.50, which is significantly higher than the current market value of CDM carbon credits.

Basic features for the purchase of carbon credits include search criteria such as project name, host country, price as well as sustainable development benefits. However, whilst the tool is supposed to offer a user-friendly means of carbon offsetting, you have to watch out when completing your shopping list! The Go Climate Neutral Now initiative fools potential customers as it also allows ancient projects – such as those registered before 2012 – and offsets from problematic project types such as fossil fuel and large hydro power, to sell carbon offsets.

The tool also aims to offer carbon offsets for airline passengers and airlines that are currently fleshing out their contributions to reduce emissions as part of a so called global market based mechanism (GMBM), which is expected to be adopted under the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) next year. Experts involved in the process fear that insufficient quality safeguards for credit eligibility will be agreed by ICAO, as it is evident that greenwashing by the aviation industry through using bad credits will be a major problem. For instance, there is currently a real risk that the aviation industry will be effectively subsidizing the coal industry through buying “clean” coal offsets and calling it climate action. Robust quality criteria that exclude a number of problematic project types is essential for the credibility of the aviation industry’s global market based mechanism.

 By creating demand for older carbon credits or offsets with low social and environmental integrity, the Go Climate Neutral Now initiative risks jeopardizing the quality of the global market. The UNFCCC must concentrate on ways of stimulating new high quality emission reductions rather than driving shoppers to the ‘damaged goods’ section.

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