Climate compensation is stupid!

It sounds good, does it not? Justifying your overconsumption by buying products from a company that claims to plant a tree easing your mind, and their own. The concept of climate compensation is nothing other than a marketing strategy to sell more useless items with good conscience. We cannot wait for a tree to grow…

Esther Ohlen Avatar

It sounds good, does it not? Justifying your overconsumption by buying products from a company that claims to plant a tree easing your mind, and their own. The concept of climate compensation is nothing other than a marketing strategy to sell more useless items with good conscience. We cannot wait for a tree to grow – We need companies to take responsibility for their carbon emissions and implement changes that make a difference. 

Climate compensation does of course not harm the environment. On the contrary, it is a good thing to plant trees and expand renewable energy, but despite certificates to ensure compensation, there is no actual way to control if the climate compensation will have a positive impact on the environment. A study ordered by the European Commission uncovered that 85% of all the UN plantation projects would be implemented anyway, with or without the climate compensation premium. It is also difficult to ensure that the trees planted as a part of these projects will grow long enough for your consumption to be fully compensated. In addition, the trees planted do not bind carbon dioxide immediately and it will take years until they make a difference. In other words, climate compensation is not guaranteed through the promise of planting trees with every purchase. 

The main problem with the concept of climate compensation however is that it is often used as an excuse to not act in necessary ways. Companies cover their packaging with slogans such as “net-zero climate impact” justifying the consumption of products with high carbon dioxide emission levels and for example disregarding the major impact the dairy industry has on the environment. 

One could argue that climate compensation is better than doing nothing at all. This is a valid argument, but in this critical era, we do no longer have the time to compensate for our destructive behaviour. We must prioritize minimizing carbon emissions if the world should have a chance to survive this climate crisis. Wim Carton, a climate scientist at Lund University, advocates another method of climate compensation; a company should not only invest in projects outside the organization, but they should also focus on their production chain, and work to cut the emissions directly. At this point, this seems to be the only sensible solution.  

The damage is already done, and the clock is ticking. Climate compensation is simply not enough anymore. We must see the whole picture and realize that the consequences of overconsumption and long flights still exist even if we plant a tree. The damage can no longer be ignored just because companies point the other way. It is a critical time, and the stupid justification of consumption must stop. 

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