Bogotá — Although carbon credits provide incentives for environmental conservation, over time they may lose their stabilizing character and follow the path of other tools such as forestry certifications, proving insufficient to address the underlying problems, warns the director of campaigns for the Andean region of the environmental organization Greenpeace, Matías Asun, in an interview with Bloomberg Línea.
“At certain moments, the logic of bond production results in an incentive to obviously produce greater conservation initiatives and value the ecosystem services of ecological compensation; however, to the extent that the system is rolling, it becomes more and more part of the establishment, it loses a certain character of stabilization and finally we end up compensating the uncompensated, because the planet is finite, it is limited, and it cannot be compensated to infinity,” Asun said.
Carbon credits are a type of certificate that documents the reduction of CO2 emissions and are traded on carbon markets globally. There are also other compensation instruments such as green bonds, which are a type of financial debt instrument to finance environmental initiatives.
According to figures from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the region issued $20.5 billion of international green, social, sustainability and sustainability-linked bonds (GSSS bonds) last year, which was 56% less than in 2021: “Even so, it was the second largest annual volume of GSSS ever issued in international markets,” according to an ECLAC report.
According to the report, last year saw an 81% decline in international GSSS bond issuance by the private sector.
This decline “was almost double that of the sovereign sector (42%), while there was a 124% increase in the proportion of issues by quasi-sovereign and supranational entities.”
Asun warned that these types of bonds must be associated with a real conservation policy to be effective. “If they are not associated with valuing the ecosystem service and there is no long-term conservation policy (...) they end up being insufficient to mitigate the underlying problem for which they were designed,” he said.
For this reason, he proposed public-private alliances that effectively guarantee the protection of these ecosystems and variables, otherwise “what is happening with forestry certifications or aquaculture certifications will probably happen”.
And he warned that green and carbon credits are currently insufficient.
“In Latin America we have a double challenge: not only do we have to generate a way of life that does not produce more emissions, but also one that values respect for the environment that surrounds us and has allowed us to reach this level of development,” said Asun.
What role can Latin America play in mitigating climate crises?
For Asun, the world is experiencing multiple crises that are interconnected, referring to climate, pollution and biodiversity, so he argued that addressing one without considering the others is irresponsible.
The Greenpeace spokesperson said that, in this context, reducing emissions should be a priority for Latin America.
“We consider our continent as a developing continent, but to reach development with the same emissions with which developed countries arrived is a terrible recipe,” he said.
How to make environmental and economic development compatible? This is a question that has an inherent fallacy in the way this debate usually takes place in Latin America. It is as if development had to be made compatible with care for the environment, and the truth is that it is not development if it is not compatible with the environment.Matías Asun, director of campaigns for the Andean region, Greenpeace.
Consequently, he said that Latin America must align itself with development mechanisms that allow decoupling emissions from economic growth, promoting industries that have a much more ecological potential and are compatible with the planet.
He stressed that the climate fight in Latin America is just beginning and that there is a growing trend towards greater sensitivity to this issue, particularly among young people, but also in business spheres.
“We have not seen trends that allow us to establish whether or not we are winning (the battle against the climate crisis in Latin America), but I believe that the climate fight, especially in the biodiversity dimension, is just beginning,” he said.
Local-scale solutions and climate challenges
He criticized the adoption of technologies without also considering local solutions that value the resources and habitats of each territory. “One usually identifies solar panels or wind turbines with good solutions; however, if we do not value the territory, it would be difficult to call it green”.
“We are transforming our countries into real sacrifice zones, precisely because of this global logic, and not thinking about solutions at scale that value our quality of life, our habit conditions, is a problem. What are the alternatives we have? Fundamentally, to think about the wealth and the local welfare of our economies, it cannot be that all our development is based on sacrificing and externalizing the consequences to generate foreign currency, that is not growth. That is colonization. It is a very mediocre way of thinking about the economy,” he said.
Empowering consumers in the face of bad practices
Asun identified ‘greenwashing’ as one of the main obstacles to addressing the climate crisis.
He pointed out the need to promote stricter regulations and transparent public policies to counteract misleading corporate practices, and stressed the importance of companies incorporating ecological and climate variables into their management, as this also affects their long-term profitability.
“That is the paradox. The main plastic producers in the world are the ones that clean beaches the most so you get the idea that the problem is under control and justly commit not to change. (...) Planetary limits are telling us that we cannot increase the production of single-use plastic. Eco-washing, therefore, has an extremely perverse sense. This is combated with logics of political responsibility,” he said.
He therefore urged the combat of economies dependent on ecological sacrifice and advocated clear information to empower citizens and warns of the risk of global ecological collapse and the urgency of acting to reverse current trends.
“We need more and more time to recover the capacity of our natural resources, to sustain our societies and our economies. Therefore, it is urgent in this regard to combat economies dependent on ecological sacrifice and secondly the lack of information available from users. The will of the people is often much greater than the information and modes of action available,” he added.