For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Karen Orenstein, 202-222-0717,
Michael Despines, 202-222-0718,

Report Exposes Carbon Offsets as Dangerous Gimmick

Friends of the Earth Warns That Relying on Offsets Can Lead to Climate Disaster

WASHINGTON - The controversial practice of carbon offsetting, via which U.S. polluters send money overseas in exchange for promised—and often pretend—pollution reductions elsewhere, came under fire today in a new report published by Friends of the Earth.

Offsets are a centerpiece of the energy bill that passed the House of Representatives in June, and they may be included in soon-to-be-introduced legislation in the Senate. The report explains how offsets work and concludes that they are a flawed approach to combating global warming.

“It is suicide to base our future on offsets. Offsets provide the illusion of taking action to stop global warming when in fact they often allow emissions to rise,” said Michael Despines of Friends of the Earth, one of the authors of the report. “People need to realize how dangerous offsets can be—they provide a false sense of security because they often do not deliver as promised.”

“The offsets in the bill that recently passed the House could allow the United States to keep increasing emissions of heat-trapping gases until 2029, even though scientists say we need to reduce emissions now,” said Karen Orenstein, a climate finance campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

“A cap-and-trade system contaminated by offsets can open the door wide to what’s known as ‘subprime carbon,’” said Michelle Chan, author of Subprime Carbon, a report released by Friends of the Earth this spring. “When offset credits don’t deliver promised greenhouse gas reductions, they can collapse in financial value, harming broader financial markets. We need to reduce actual emissions, not create a new source of financial risk.”

The report can be viewed at:


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Friends of the Earth is the U.S. voice of the world's largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

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