Global survey shows hardly any support for net-zero pledges with carbon offsets

Photo-illustration: Unsplash (Carlos Grury Santos)

Yet as nations began wrapping up the difficult talks at the UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26 in Glasgow, false solutions, such as net-zero offsets and carbon markets ended up on the agenda. Now climate negotiators and youth activists are debating net-zero and what it will mean for years to come.

Net-zero refers to the goal of balancing the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted by a country or corporation by “offsetting” those amounts through forest preservation, other land-based carbon sinks or direct carbon capture technology (which is not proven to work).

We’ve been introducing the term “real zero” this year. Essentially, it means commitments from nations or companies to end the burning of fossil fuels, and the abandonment of carbon offset credit trading and an acceleration toward fossil-free energy as soon as possible. No business as usual. No tricky fancy accounting. No burning now and pay for it later.

The terminology can be confusing though so we wanted to ask you ourselves what you think about net zero and carbon offsets. Greenpeace International distributed a global online poll from 27 October to 7 November 2021 in eight languages -English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Danish, Chinese, and Hebrew. 2681 people responded from more than 60 countries.

Results showed that only about half of those people could correctly define “net zero” or “carbon offsets.” Some confused net zero as the actual goal of bringing absolute carbon emissions to zero – a lofty but difficult goal.

When asked “When should nations achieve net-zero emissions?” 77.5 percent of respondents answered, “as soon as possible.” Only 14.7 percent said by 2030 and 3.5 percent said by 2050 and 1 percent said later than 2050. The result suggests that the declarations of nations pledging to achieve net-zero carbon neutrality by 2050 or even later, are largely out of step with public opinion. Once the correct definition of “net-zero” and “carbon offsets credits” were defined, when asked “Do you support achieving “net-zero” through “carbon offset credits?,” 81.1 percent answered “no,” 18.8 percent answered “yes.”

The question “Do you trust a company that boasts about its net-zero pledge but then continues to burn fossil energy or increase their emissions footprint, saying they’ll achieve neutrality through carbon offsets credits?” 97.8 percent of respondents answered they would not trust a company doing this. 2.2 percent said yes.

This is a warning to companies jumping on the net-zero bandwagon without disclosing serious plans to curb fossil fuel usage. Shareholders might be fooled and relieved, but respondents are to be catching on to how disingenuous this clever greenwashing actually is.

Source: Greenpeace