Friends of the Earth: Chasing Carbon Unicorns

Indigenous activist COP carbon offsets article 6 UNFCCC

This report argues that the current definition of net zero creates environmental and social problems through carbon offset markets, and that a shift to "real zero" targets is needed.

In a February 2021 report, Friends of the Earth International unpacks the science behind "net zero," and what it really means for fossil fuel production. The report focuses on recent commitments by national governments and large energy corporations to set net zero greenhouse gas emissions targets, and details the subsequent creation of new carbon offset markets with real consequences for indigenous communities and local environmental problems.

The report also explains the roles played by various actors involved in the effort to “make offsetting great again”. These include less obvious players such as a few large mainstream conservation organization, as well as the more obvious ones: the banks, the finance industry, and corporate interests behind maintaining the status quo of fossil fuel production and consumption.

Friends of the Earth argues that the current definition of net zero requires "carbon unicorns" - the outsourcing of carbon offsets to the Global South, requiring massive tracts of land and interfering with the needs of local communities and territorial rights. The report calls for a transformation of "net zero" into "real zero," including a complete phase-out of fossil fuels and industrial agriculture, keeping equity in mind, and support for rights for communities whose livelihoods are dependent on those ecosystems.

Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) is the world’s largest grassroots environmental network with 73 member groups and over two million members and supporters around the world. Our vision is of a peaceful and sustainable world based on societies living in harmony with nature. Their latest financial reports are available here.