UN Environment official attacks agency’s own carbon offsetting policy

(Climate Change News, 11 Jun 2019) Confusion reigns as UN Environment publishes, then retracts, an article criticising the use of carbon credits to make up for polluting activities.


UN Environment published an unusually stark critique of carbon offsetting on Monday. On Tuesday, the article was taken down, following queries by Climate Home News.

In the original article, archived by the Wayback Machine, a climate specialist at the UN organisation warned against considering carbon offsets as “our get-out-jail-free card”.

“The era of carbon offsets is drawing to a close,” Niklas Hagelberg wrote. “Buying carbon credits in exchange for a clean conscience while you carry on flying, buying diesel cars and powering your home with fossil fuels is no longer acceptable or widely accepted.”

Since 2008, UN Environment has claimed to be climate neutral, based on buying carbon credits from a scheme administered by UN Climate Change. While not indicating any change to that policy, the commentary appeared to attack the underlying concept of polluters paying others to cut emissions on their behalf.

Contacted by Climate Home News, Hagelberg blamed the editing process for introducing some “conflicting messages” to his original text. “This is a web story not an official position paper. However [UN Environment] does see offsets as an intermediate solution.”

The following day, a revised article took a softer line: carbon offsetting went from “no longer acceptable” to “being challenged by people concerned about climate change”. Spokespersons at UN Environment and UN Climate Change did not respond to requests for comment.

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Climate Change News, 11 Jun 2019: UN Environment official attacks agency’s own carbon offsetting policy