Carbon offset programs are failing as climate solutions. Of course they are! Paraphrasing Einstein, problems can’t be solved with the same system of thinking that created them. In other words, one can’t solve a systemic problem by applying the same system of orientation that was followed in creating the system and thus the problem.
Carbon offsets or carbon allowances, are market-driven solutions to the climate crisis that cannot possibly work, since they are devised by the very same system of thought whose consequence is the climate crisis; it’s a capitalist resolution to a capitalism caused problem!
These market-driven solutions emerge from the capitalist’s mindset—the way of structuring problems—which is both materialistic and mechanistic in orientation. This mindset holds and advances beliefs that are essentially unsustainablein a highly interconnected living world. Unlimited material growth is one such belief. It is quite illogical to actually believe that unlimited material growth in a finite world is both possible and desirable. Acting on this belief is tantamount to committing societal suicide.
Capitalism opposes life, as argued here. To the capitalist, everything in Nature as well as Nature itself is an object to exploit and commodify for profit. Furthermore, those having this mindset tend to frame things within the addition-subtraction accounting structure of a balance sheet. So in essence, to the business minded it is an accounting issue, not an existential crisis—hence the embrace of carbon offsets. In such a framework, there are no interaction terms, no reinforcing feedback loops, just arithmetic manipulation of line items fundamentally leaving the system unchanged. It is quite expectable that the captains of business & industry, those who hold this mindset and who don’t deny climate change would devise this resolution to the climate crisis. Why? It allows them (and capitalism) to continue seeking profit maximization unabated.
Clearly, this system of orientation and its way of framing the climate crisis doesn’t challenge or put into question the intent of business. It actually does exactly what capitalist seek to do, that is change the conversation turning attention and focus away from what is really needed. It is no wonder that climate groups at COP 25, reportedly are suspicious of and warn against market-driven resolutions to the climate crisis.
What’s needed is problem dissolution not problem resolution. The difference is that dissolution necessitates a complete re-creation/re-design/transmutation of the socio-economic system, not merely a change in the system. In the former the problem itself is removed/eliminated, whereas in the latter the underlying problem—which is the capitalist system itself–is still present and operating and thus will continue to diminish our viability as a species.
In capitalism, labor serves capital and by extension so too does society. That is, inherent in the capitalist system is the notion that the society serves the economy, otherwise why would the business minded among us place the concern of the economy—and the corporation—over the health and well-being of people (a.k.a. employees, customers, consumers, citizens)? Why else would the axiom if the price for labor can be driven to a minimum then profit can trend in the opposite direction be the MO of corporations? Why are the externalities (i.e. external costs of business) not incurred by business but left for society to pay, not only in terms of dollars and cents but also in terms of health and well-being? Ensuring the profitability of the corporation—seemingly a tacit right to profit for the corporation—outweighs sustaining the viability of life (i.e. the right to life). It need not be this way.
Bottom line (sorry for using capitalistic terminology) is that until and unless capitalism is removed as the organizing socio-economic system along with its mechanistic system of orientation the problem of climate change will continue to be with us until we are no longer.