What are carbon credits and how much are they?

 (Nick Ansell / PA)
(Nick Ansell / PA)

Advisors to former US climate envoy John Kerry vigorously pushed the world's leading corporate climate targets oversight committee to change its stance against the use of contentious carbon credits, the Financial Times reported.

Following the announcement of a carbon-offsetting strategy, Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a climate-certification agency, received a negative reaction from its own employees.

Businesses will be able to offset emissions from their supply chains by using environmental attribute certifications, according to SBTi’s new strategy.

Additionally, the employees have called for the resignation of board members who backed the initiative as well as CEO Luiz Fernando do Amaral.

But what are carbon credits and why are they controversial?

What are carbon credits?

Carbon offsets, or carbon credits, are permits that let the owner emit a specific quantity of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. One tonne of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases may be emitted with one credit.

Businesses receive a fixed amount of credits, which decrease with time, and they are able to sell any extra to another business.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), there are three basic types of credits:

  • Those from reduced emissions (typically energy-efficiency measures)

  • Removed emissions (carbon capture and planting forests)

  • Avoided emissions (for example, refraining from cutting down rainforests).

Carbon credits are designed to help businesses reduce their gas emissions, in areas such as aviation, nature and tech.

The reason carbon credits is flawed to some is because businesses that release pollutants are given credits that let them keep releasing pollutants up to a predetermined, regularly lowered limit. But they can always pay to release more.

For any unused carbon credits, they gain profit by selling their unused credits.

Celebrities and carbon credits

Celebrities with private jets have been criticised for their private plane usage due to the inevitable release of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

According to a survey by the The Guardian, 200 celebrities and businessmen are projected to have emitted 415,518 tonnes of CO2 from 44,739 private jet trips in 2023 alone. This is the same as the annual emissions of almost 40,000 Britons.

Newsweek revealed that Taylor Swift produced 138 tons of CO2 emissions in three months. The singer’s footprint was widely condemned but the singer revealed in February that she bought double the amount of carbon credits needed to offset her flights for the Eras tour.

Coldplay has made an effort to address the issue head-on by completely minimising its environmental impact. Their 2023 Music of the Spheres tour resulted in a direct 47 per cent reduction in their carbon emissions.

How much do carbon credits cost?

The location and market in which carbon credits are sold determine their price. The average cost of carbon credits is currently £35.82 per tonne at the time of writing, having dropped from a high of £83. In January, it was £64.90. In the EU, it is €66.42.

Why should levels of carbon and greenhouse gases be reduced?

Increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) have been demonstrated by scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations to be warming the globe. Extreme weather variations are caused by this worldwide. At the moment, burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas produces carbon dioxide, which is the primary greenhouse gas. We may prevent additional harm to our climate by lowering the quantity of carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere.