Carbon offsets are often emphasized as effective and easily accessible tools in the effort to mitigate the looming threat of climate change. Offsets can be a useful bridge mechanism to allow industries with processes that are emission-heavy to purchase carbon reductions elsewhere as cleaner technologies develop. But the current use of offsets as a primary tool for corporations to meet their emissions reductions goals, or for consumers to reduce their individual carbon footprints, will not be sufficient to meet climate change mitigation goals. This Note will examine two major issues with the voluntary offset system. First, there is no centralized regulatory system for carbon offsets. Second, set within the larger neoliberal framework of market-based climate solutions, carbon offsets do not promote the more aggressive policies that are needed to mitigate the disastrous effects of the climate emergency. Carbon offsets are a mechanism that place responsibility on individuals and the market, when there must be unified state and private action. This article will also explore some of the proposed legal and regulatory strategies to strengthen government regulation of the voluntary offset market.
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