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THE QUESTION

Will offsets benefit cap-and-trade systems?

In order to meet proposed curbs on greenhouse gases, policymakers are considering letting industries offset their emissions through everything from conserving tropical forests to capturing methane and no-till farming.

To what extent are these measures equivalent to cutting emissions outright? And what does this say about the benefits or problems of a cap-and-trade system compared to a carbon tax?

Posted by Washington Post Editor on October 21, 2009 7:00 AM
FROM THE PANEL

Scientifically sound, but still problematic

Offsets are scientifically sound, but insufficient to the fundamental change needed. The science behind the offset concept is straightforward and easy to understand. There is only one atmosphere; all emissions, when accurately measured in greenhouse gas equivalents, have equal impact....

Posted by David F. Hales, on October 26, 2009 1:12 PM

Validate and verify

Last week, presidents of the 18 prominent American scientific societies wrote Senators a letter making it clear climate change is occurring and that greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary cause. They noted the strong evidence that ongoing...

Posted by Donald F. Boesch, on October 26, 2009 8:32 AM

Each approach has its own challenges

In theory, it makes sense for policymakers to consider letting industries offset their emissions through means like conserving tropical forests, or capturing methane. Methane is the second-biggest culprit in terms of greenhouse gases, and because it is a much shorter-lived gas...

Posted by Bjorn Lomborg, on October 26, 2009 8:06 AM

Offsets with safeguards can work

Offsets can play an important role in fighting climate change, if they help us make deeper, faster reductions at a lower cost, rather than slow the vitally needed transition to clean energy technologies. To make this happen, we need three...

Posted by Carter S. Roberts, on October 23, 2009 12:45 PM

Well-designed offsets needed

Verifiable and permanent greenhouse gas offsets that meet rigorous environmental standards should be part of the nation's comprehensive climate and energy policy. Offsets are real and equivalent reductions. They just occur somewhere else, either in this country or elsewhere. Given...

Posted by Pam Faggert, on October 21, 2009 5:35 PM

Fraud and abuse likely

In a perfect world, one greenhouse gas emitter paying someone else to reduce their emissions would be equivalent to the first emitter taking comparable steps. In the world that people actually inhabit, such offsets under a cap-and-trade system open many...

Posted by Robert J. Shapiro, on October 21, 2009 7:19 AM

Offsets create complications

The issue of "offsets" is complicated. In the short run, they can slow the growth in emissions but they are not the equivalent of cutting emissions. And, in the long run, they are likely to create more problems than benefits....

Posted by William O'Keefe, on October 21, 2009 7:10 AM

Towards a global carbon market

Offsets are an integral part of a broad market driven approach to reducing emissions. Whereas a carbon tax will always remain a domestic fiscal policy instrument with no real reach beyond national borders, a cap-and-trade system is very different. It...

Posted by David Hone, on October 21, 2009 5:32 AM

We must capture every opportunity

Looking at the global options to reduce emissions, I come to two conclusions:   1. The job is possible and affordable if done right, and 2. There is no silver bullet.   No sector or country can meet the challenge...

Posted by Lars G. Josefsson, on October 21, 2009 5:20 AM

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