Is the World Cup in Qatar a good time to end carbon neutrality?

tayfunski/Getty Images/iStockphoto Construction of a new stadium in the Qatar desert in the Middle East

ENVIRONMENT – “It’s worse than doing nothing”. is asked by The HuffPost, Larry Lohmann doesn’t mince his words. The director of the British environmental NGO Corner House is not the only one in the sector to condemn a practice that has raised many concerns in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup: carbon neutrality. This is the promise of Qatar and FIFA. This is first of all necessary for any company or organization that starts a new project. But isn’t it time to recycle it?

Carbon offsetting, the basis of the idea of ​​neutrality, is here to stay. Created in the late 1980s, it was institutionalized by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, where a carbon market was created to “pay” for rich (and polluting) countries’ CO2 emissions by financing “green” projects. The resulting concept of “carbon neutrality” is based on a simple principle: each emission must be offset by the absorption of an equivalent amount of CO2, trees or other capture systems.

In the 2000s, carbon neutrality became a commercial argument: from Google, which pioneered the movement in 2007, to Easyjet, which claimed to be the first carbon neutral airline in 2019… specifically for the Qatar World Cup and its seven stadiums opportunity until built.

Unsupervised certificate

Shouldn’t that be good news for the planet? Carbon offset measures are not always unanimous. In 2019, American investigative media ProPublica published an in-depth study on carbon offsets. A brutal charge titled Why Forest Conservancy Loans Can Be Worse Than Nothing the list of projects was reviewed.

Lies about the number of saved trees, forests cut down a few years after planting, projects calculated several times… The results of the research are sad. The car’s heart stops. ” There are good projects, but the vast majority of them have no business there “exclaims environmental policy analyst Anja Kollmuss.

For him, the problem mainly stems from the functioning of compensation: on the one hand, the organizations responsible for connecting companies with the government, and on the other hand, nature conservation projects are very poorly managed. ” Who issues certificates to companies? The companies that sell them replace the carbon “the expert worried. A system that suits all parties: the buyer, who can then be contacted about his movement, the seller country that receives the money, as well as the famous middleman. The big loser is the planet.

Do we really need to save the carbon neutral soldier?

Because even when compensation works, it is not unanimous. In August 2021, the NGO Oxfam published a vitriolic report that found today’s “net zero” absurd from the point of view of simple arithmetic. ” There simply isn’t enough land The association has announced that governments will plant as many trees as they want to achieve carbon neutrality.

Reaching ‘net zero’ by 2050 would require 1.6 billion hectares, or five times the area covered by trees in India. It is nonsense for scientists and environmental activists who fear that the compensation mechanism is nothing more than a license to pollute without changing anything.

Famous music group Mass Attack has made a habit of offsetting the carbon footprint of his concerts by purchasing forested land. But at the end of 2019, group members announced that they had stopped carbon offsets. And certainly not for not having the survival of the planet at heart. ” Ultimately, carbon offsets are more about moving carbon from one place to another than reducing pollution. “.

Reduce emissions instead of “eliminating” them

Larry Lohmann shares this view. ” It’s all based on the misconception that positive action equals pollution anywhere on the planet. This is a fundamentally wrong principle ” he protests. Even if Anja Kollmuss shares this little love for this system, she wants to be more realistic. ” I think it’s always a good idea to tell ourselves that we should be neutral in terms of pollutant emissions. But I don’t think the carbon offset system can really be improved. »

What to do then? Make the message more controlled and give less space to CO2 capture projects in favor of more direct actions, the analyst believes. To be able to claim carbon neutrality, organizations no longer have to simply fund projects, but plan to reduce their own emissions. Which is impossible in a one off event like the World Cup… So gone is the precious tagging.

Carbon offsetting will then become a simple, small component of a zero-emissions project, ceasing the generalized greenwashing function. Some labeling companies focus more on reducing pollution and not just moving it to a poor country. But carbon offsets are here to stay. ” If I were queen of the world, I would trash carbon offsets, the expert laughs. But I live in reality. »

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