Upset Over Offsets

By May 22, 2007Global Warming

Representatives Tom Davis, R-VA, and Darrell Issa, R-CA, of the House Government Reform Committee are asking the GAO for a report on the carbon offset business. (CNS story here. Letter in .pdf format here.)

The United States Congress is considering options to address climate change, including legislation that would achieve cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gas emissions using market-based policies. Many of these proposals could provide further incentives for industry, consumers, and government agencies to “offset” emissions of greenhouse gases by paying third parties to reduce emissions through activities including the use of renewable energy and the sequestration of carbon in forests or below the earth surface.

And the request…

We, therefore, ask the Government Accountability Office to provide the Committee with information on emission offset programs and mechanisms for ensuring their credibility. Specifically, we are requesting information regarding:

(1) the extent and scope of the emission offset market, including the purchase of offsets by U.S. government agencies in response to the Energy Policy Act and related federal directives,
(2) the availability and use of mechanisms for ensuring the credibility of emission offsets, and,
(3) lessons that can be learned for enhancing oversight of emission offset markets and the potential role of emission offsets in broader climate change mitigation policies.

Given all the doubts there are about the feel-good carbon offsets, these are good questions indeed.