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The Great Carbon Offset Scam: Unmasking the Green Mirage

Understand why and how the voluntary carbon offsets market has crashed!


In the age of environmental consciousness, companies have been racing to showcase that they are green, or soon will be. Carbon offsets emerged as their golden ticket by promising a cleaner, greener future for very little work. But as the curtain lifts, a different story unfolds. Let's dive deep into the meteoric rise and recent fall of the carbon credit market.

The Green Dream

Imagine a world where companies could neutralize huge swaths of their carbon footprint by just paying a small fee. That's the allure of voluntary nature-based carbon offsets. Pay a small fee and some trees are planted or protected, and you get to offset your emissions.

It is no surprise major companies jumped on the band wagon. It allowed them to proudly flaunt their ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) prowess, say they were net zero aligned or their products were “Carbon Neutral”, all while they continued business as usual. Stakeholders rejoiced, believing they were part of a brighter, sustainable future. But with anything in life, if it is too good to be true, it most likely is...

The Dream Dies

At the beginning of 2023, studies started to appear showing something fishy was going on. The Guardian, Die Zeit, and Source Material spent nine months investigating offsets. What they found was truly shocking! Offsets ‘…approved by the world’s leading certifier and used by Disney, Shell, Gucci and other big corporations are largely worthless and could make global heating worse…’.

This investigation was backed up by a ground breaking scientific study by Cambridge University, which found that a staggering 94% of carbon credits do not lead to any carbon reductions. How could this be? The answer lay in the rainforests. Huge tracts of land in rainforests are bought for preservation, generating carbon credits. But here's the catch: much of this land was never under threat. It was remote, inaccessible, and unlikely to be logged, which also ironically makes it cheaper to purchase. So, while on paper, these credits look impressive they achieve very little.

The Aftermath

The fallout was swift and brutal. Trading firms, once bullish on carbon credits, faced crippling losses. Companies, sensing the changing winds, distanced themselves from the now-tainted voluntary carbon credit market. The CEO of the world’s leading certifier, Verra, swiftly stepped down while strenuously rebutting any accusation, and the value of voluntary carbon offset futures fell from $15.16 at the start of 2023, to just $2.23 in September 2023, a loss of over 85% in the last nine months.

Source: TradingView

Most importantly, the fallout has forced regulators to act around the world. The EU is to ban “Climate Neutral” claims if they are based on offsetting emissions from 2026.


The carbon credit saga serves as a stark reminder of the complexities of environmental sustainability. While the intent behind voluntary carbon offsets is generally noble, the road to genuine change is paved with challenges. As we move forward, transparency, authenticity, and rigorous oversight are crucial.

The green dream is still alive, but it requires collective vigilance and commitment. Let's ensure that our quest for a sustainable future is built on solid ground, not shifting sands, and that this serves as a wake-up call for investors and consumers alike. The fact still remains the only true way to get to “Carbon Neutral” or “Net Zero” over the long term is to reduce our emissions.

Rich Munro

CEO & Founder

Rich is the founder of Ecorth. He has been working in the ESG industry for 10+ years.