Carbon Offset Programs Are Failing as Climate Solutions

New reports are questioning the effectiveness of cap-and-trade programs against climate change in California and for East Coast states. Emissions in California and globally are projected to skyrocket in the decades ahead unless significant action is taken.

A new study by the United Nations Environment Program has concluded that if dramatic action is not taken to tackle the climate crisis, the world could warm by seven degrees Fahrenheit or 3.9 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. That’s within one lifetime. This would lock in extreme climate impacts such as completely flooded, heavily populated coastal regions, increasingly devastating mega storms, food production risk, extreme heat waves, and massive loss of biodiversity. And that’s not all. With the potential nightmarish future like this imagined by policy makers and regulators, the California legislature passed years ago a bill creating the nation’s first statewide cap and trade system.

It was reauthorized in 2017, signed into law both times by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown. The law creates market-based incentives for industrial actors to cap their emissions over time as opposed to imposing strict caps. Likewise, in 2009, Northeast coastal and mid-Atlantic States created a group called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, known affectionately as Reggie, it is like it’s California cousin, a cap and trade system. Years into existence now, the big question is this: are the programs proving effective and cutting climate causing greenhouse gas emissions? Two new reports, one by investigative journalism outlet ProPublica about California and the other by the environmental advocacy group Food and Water Watch, say for the most part: no.

Here to talk about that are the authors of these two reports themselves. Lisa Song reports on the environment, energy and climate change for ProPublica, while Nikita Naik works as a senior researcher for Food and Water Watch, where she works on climate and energy issues.

Read and watch the full interview here.