Not carbon offsets, but carbon upsets

Climate chaos0


As with the existing offset approach, financial benefits could be shared in the case of legal and political activities that are “sponsored” by an international partner. Imagine a world in which global financial giants like Goldman Sachs devote themselves not to the exploitation of dubious arbitrage opportunities like HFC-23 capture, but to the identification and promotion of critical political interventions by disempowered voices for sustainability. In that world, the landmark deal recently brokered by the UN development programme to preserve Ecuador’s Yasuni national park would become a model of climate capitalism.

The carbon upset approach does not directly promote transformative clean-energy technologies. Instead, it aims to disrupt the political and economic inertia of the status quo. But that’s precisely the disruption we need. Conventional policies such as carbon offsets and allowance giveaways have the perverse effect of further subsidising already massively subsidised and politically dominant industries. Moving to a carbon upset system would open space for more dramatic transformations by empowering groups that stand opposed to the interests of business-as-usual beneficiaries. With the playing field tilted this way, who knows what might be possible?