Carbon offsets are not emissions reductions. Each offset that is developed in the South al- lows pollution from fossil-fuelled power sta- tions or heavy industry in the global North to continue over and above reduction limits while the same companies and industrialised countries claim compliance with insubstan- tial reduction targets on paper. Furthermore, the projects developed in the South are blind to on-going environmental justice struggles and often exacerbate existing conflicts on the ground.
To date, the UN’s Clean Development Mech- anism (CDM) has actually resulted in an in- crease of CO2 emissions worldwide – displac- ing emissions cuts in the North in favour of offset projects that have already awarded bil- lions in free subsidies to some of the world’s most polluting industries. As the CDM grows, it is increasingly funding new fossil fuel pow- er generation projects, as well as a plethora of renewable energy schemes. Yet, as this
photo essay will show, even renewable ener- gy projects cannot automatically be assumed to be clean or sustainable. The case studies serve as an advanced warning of how not to proceed with renewable energy. There are many ways to build truly sustainable, small- scale, renewable energy projects but this is reliant on whether or not the projects are community-led and locally beneficial. When renewable energy projects are embedded within the CDM, they are then set inside an institutionalised development framework and tend to inhibit rather than advance ‘sustain- able’ renewable energy.
The following four photo essays are modelled after the four case studies in the recently published book, “Carbon Trading: how it works and why it fails,” by Tamra Gilbertson and Oscar Reyes and published by the Dag Hammerskold Foundation as a part of their critical currents series.1
1 The third case study however is based on a REDD pilot project instead of the Wilmar Group case study from the book. Given the critical importance in Copenhagen for more debate on REDD, the essay on Kampar was substituted for the Wilmar Group case study which is found in the book.