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The Guardian

Carbon Offsetting


The Guardian’s powerful investigation into forest carbon offsets approved by big corporations found that the scheme used by the largest certifier was “largely worthless” and could “make global heating worse.”

The Guardian investigated Verra, the world’s leading carbon standard for voluntary offsets market, and found that more than 90 per cent of rainforest offset credits were likely to be “phantom credits” and did not “represent genuine carbon reductions.”

Verra strongly disputed the Guardian’s findings, branding them “patently unreliable”, and said it remained committed to rainforest conservation schemes.

The investigation concluded that:

  • Not many of Verra’s rainforest projects revealed evidence of deforestation, according to two studies and further analysis, which also revealed 94 per cent of the credits had no benefit to the climate.
  • According to an analysis from the University of Cambridge in 2022, the threat to forests had been overstated by about 400 per cent on average for Verra projects.
  • Many large corporations, such as Gucci, Shell and Leon, among others, bought rainforest offsets approved by Verra for environmental claims.
  • In at least one of the offsetting projects, human rights were flagged as a serious concern. The Guardian visited a flagship project in Peru where they found evidence of forced evictions and tensions with park authorities.

The nine-month investigation, in conjunction with the German weekly Die Zeit and a non-profit investigative journalism organisation, SourceMaterial, raised concerns over the effectiveness of rainforest offset and posed serious questions for companies that depend on them for their net zero strategies.

The investigation drew from interviews and on-the-ground reporting with scientists, industry insiders and Indigenous communities.

After the investigation was launched, Verra stood by its methodologies but subsequently announced that the scheme would be phased out by mid-2025.