Students Staff

24 November 2009

Academic questions 'green' initiatives

Businesses and other organisations signing up to so-called ‘green’ initiatives may be doing more harm to the planet than good, warns a new book compiled by two academics from the University of Essex.

Few would argue that climate change is the biggest challenge the world has ever faced, and reducing our carbon footprint is essential to the future of the planet.

But, as Dr Steffen Böhm and Siddhartha Dabhi argue in their new book, Upsetting the Offset: The Political Economy of Carbon Markets, measures put in place to reduce carbon emissions following the Kyoto Protocol Treaty on climate change have only made matters worse.

Launched to tie-in with next month’s United Nations Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen (COP15), the book – which collates contributions from more than 30 leading experts - is another voice in the growing criticism about the business of carbon.

Dr Böhm and Mr Dabhi will be giving a free talk - Why Carbon Offsetting Will Not Save The Planet - in Colchester to explain why carbon offsetting has failed to deliver promised reductions in greenhouse gases.

Carbon offsetting has become a multi-billion-pound global business which has captured the imagination of organisations worldwide who want to do something to help combat global warming. The reality, however, is that many of these schemes have actually made matters worse.

Dr Böhm and Mr Dabhi, of the University-based Essex Business School, advise businesses and organisations to reduce their carbon footprint by undertaking initiatives closer to home than funding carbon offsetting programmes in deprived countries thousands of miles away.

‘Carbon offsetting and carbon markets haven’t really delivered the reductions of greenhouse gas emissions they claimed and in many ways have just made the problem worse,’ they explained.

‘These schemes have often just provided an incentive for big polluting companies to continue emitting greenhouse gases rather than to change their ways.

‘Often, carbon offsetting schemes have very negative effects on local communities and eco-systems in developing countries.’

The book contributes to a growing field of critics of carbon markets by highlighting several up-to-date examples of where the system has failed and often led to negative social, economic and environmental impacts in deprived countries.

‘Carbon markets simply don’t address the underlying and root causes of climate change, which is an over-consumption of finite fossil fuels,’ added Dr Böhm and Mr Dabhi. ‘We are addicted to oil, gas, coal and a whole range of other fossil fuels, which, when burned for heating, electricity generation or other usages, release greenhouse gases. It is now time to make up for the lost decade since Kyoto and start to deal with our underlying reliance on fossil fuels.’

They also warn that companies claiming to be ‘carbon neutral’ due to carbon offsetting, need to be careful as the schemes they are supporting may not be as green as they think.

Dr Böhm and Mr Dabhi’s talk Why Carbon Offsetting Will Not Save The Planet is being held in the Old Library, Colchester Town Hall, West Stockwell Street, Colchester, from 4-6pm on Wednesday, 9 December 2009. If you want to attend please e-mail Vicky Passingham at or telephone 01206 872400.

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