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What Are Carbon Bonds and Why Are They So Criticized?

While these environmental tools are seen by some as a way to counteract climate change, others claim that they are a strategy used by companies to evade their responsibility towards the environment.

Coins on a surface with some plants on them

Photo: Freepik

LatinAmerican Post | Christopher Ramírez

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Leer en español: ¿Qué son los bonos de carbono y por qué son tan criticados en todo el mundo?

On May 20, two big pieces of news were announced in relation to the carbon markets in Latin America. The first was a plan created by the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) , which aims to create a carbon market in the region, offering "a historic opportunity for the region to consolidate itself as an essential actor in the agenda of mitigation of carbon emissions, thanks to its unique ability to offer climate solutions based on nature, such as the conservation and restoration of forests or regenerative agriculture”.

To achieve this goal, CAF will lead the Latin American and Caribbean Initiative for the Development of the Carbon Market (ILACC), with which it will be possible to promote "the global competitiveness of the supply of carbon credits (or bonds) generated in the region ”.

According to Jorge Arbache, CAF's vice president for the private sector, “Latin America and the Caribbean accounts for no less than 40% of the global potential for carbon credits. It's a lot. There is no way to move forward with the global carbon market, of voluntary bonds, without this region”; and it is at this point where the importance of knowing how to exploit this market in this part of the world lies.

Brazil is now experiencing the same situation. Its government decided to regulate the carbon market in that country, to make this initiative an obligation for all CO2 generating companies in its territory.

For this, the National System for the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Sinare) will be created, which will be in charge of regulating the environmental impact of carbon dioxide, through the distribution of carbon bonds, both nationally and internationally.

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Carbon credits: help or hypocrisy with the environment

For more than 20 years, the world has been talking about Carbon Bonds, an initiative that was born from the hand of the Kyoto protocol, which, as explained by the newspaper El País in December 1997, is an international agreement born within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which includes 39 developed countries, which have committed themselves to considerably reduce their carbon footprint on the planet.

It should be remembered that CO2 (carbon dioxide) is one of the greenhouse gases with the highest emission on the planet, so with the UNFCCC Carbon Credits were established as a new strategy to counteract the impact of these emissions on the environment.

According to Matavén, a project affiliated with the United Nations mechanism to combat climate change through the reduction of CO2 emissions -REDD+- (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), "Carbon Bonds are an international tool to offset the "carbon footprint" and contribute to the fight against climate change and global warming, as they allow financing a project that develops activities to reduce CO2 emissions in the atmosphere while generating positive social impacts”.

For these bonds to become a reality, there must be two main characters: the companies that generate the CO2 and the organizations attached to the UN that create environmental conservation strategies . As the Kyoto protocol requires that a company cannot exceed a certain CO2 generation capacity, what they do is that, by exceeding their carbon dioxide expenditure, they buy the "right" to continue generating this greenhouse gas from the companies.

In a few words, there are entities or projects that “stop deforestation, keep the carbon stored in the trees, avoiding the release of CO2 into the atmosphere; and they also generate positive impacts at a social level for the communities that inhabit the protected territory”, and they are sustained with the money of the companies that “expiate” their guilt by paying to be able to generate more CO2 in their industrial processes.

It should be remembered that each ton of CO2 that a project like Matavén has prevented from being released into the atmosphere is equal to a carbon credit, and this is what the companies that generate carbon dioxide end up acquiring.

Now, what, in effect, is a tool that works to counteract the consequences of CO2 in climate change and economically strengthen developing societies such as Latin America, the truth is that it has also become an opportunity to “ cheat” by various organizations that see greenwashing as a way to make money without actually supporting the environment.

According to a survey carried out by Refinitiv (a company responsible for carrying out analysis, data, trading and risk assessment), most people think that carbon credits are just an alternative that companies are using, precisely, to escape from their environmental obligation.

Ideally, the companies themselves are responsible for reducing the emissions they generate on their own, through energy efficiency or renewable energy strategies. However, many have settled for buying carbon bonds, delaying their immediate responsibility to the environment. This, of course, makes climate change a much more powerful enemy going forward.

Faced with the issue, the young Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, recognized in the framework of the last United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26) that “the compensation of emissions is often a dangerous climate lie. It encourages human rights violations and harms vulnerable communities. The compensation is often hypocrisy.”