Forget the Atkins diet, here's the ultimate new, pain-free weight-loss formula: instead of actually eating less, pay somebody else to go on a diet for you. What a plan!
Swap cake for carbon and you have a major part of the government's current scheme to deal with climate change. Instead of cutting emissions at home, major polluters can pay developing countries not to cut down their trees. And since deforestation is responsible for around 20% of all emissions, industry can do nothing while making a grand step to halting climate change.
All of this is known in government parlance as ‘off-setting’. The idea is at the heart of the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Sheme (CPRS). As with many other parts of that scheme, it is at best hare-brained and at worst a deliberate attempt to mislead.
Off-setting doesn’t work for two reasons.
1. Unless we actually cut industrial emissions, the rainforests will start to die anyway.
2. A lack of verification, compounded by widespread illegal logging, means that there is no way to guarantee that the forests will be protected at all.
So, the result of off-setting is more industrial emissions and no guarantee that forests will be protected. Yet, sadly, these major flaws have not stopped the Rudd Government from spruiking this policy both at home and as part of a global deal.
The world’s rapidly declining rainforests are not only being pimped out in the CPRS. Australian Government negotiators are also in Bonn, Germany currently preparing the ground for a similar policy as part of the global climate deal in Copenhagen in December.
In the section known as "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation", or REDD for short, Australia is pressing for off-setting on a global scale. And who are they touting as the forest regulator? None other than that famous protector of biodiversity, the international financial market.
Greenpeace is also in Bonn, pushing for a separate forest protection fund, because quite simply, to avoid catastrophic climate change we need to save the forests AND cut industrial emissions. Nothing less will do.