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White House Principles on Voluntary Carbon Markets Fail to Reform Broken System

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The White House today unveiled a policy statement and principles for voluntary carbon markets (VCM) intended to provide clear guardrails and realign incentives for carbon credits and offsets. The joint policy statement comes in the wake of evidence showing several popular crediting methodologies fail to live up to the standards necessary to deliver verifiable decarbonization. Clara Vondrich, senior policy counsel with Public Citizen’s Climate Program, issued the following statement: 

“We commend the White House with beginning to grapple with the thorny issue of carbon offsets—recognizing the significant integrity challenges that have created a range of unintended consequences, including land grabs from Indigenous peoples, polluted air and water, and massive profits for offsets brokers, all with underwhelming benefits for the climate. Recognizing the problem is the first step. 

“The focus must urgently turn to supporting accountability and enforcement mechanisms to eliminate the use of dangerous and low-quality offsets, which comprise most offsets on the market today. The administration must take care not to allow dangerous distractions to stand in for the emissions reductions corporations must undertake now. 

“The use of offsets in transition planning should be strictly prohibited across scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. If companies would like to purchase offsets as a form of voluntary charity to decarbonization—so-called “beyond value chain mitigation” credits—the White House should encourage them. At present, any alternative is just a permit to pollute. 

“We urge the Administration to support the efforts of California to pass carbon offsets truth-in-advertising legislation SB 1036, which would be the first accountability mechanism in the country for fraudulent, misleading, and harmful offsets claims.”

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